The Boston Celtics found themselves leaning on an unfamiliar hero to save the day in their Game 2 matchup against Philadelphia – their bench.
It was Boston’s backups who took center stage in the second quarter as they swung the game’s momentum in Boston’s favor.
And from there, Boston didn’t look back as they pulled away for a comfortable 128-101 win over the Sixers to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Boston, playing without Gordon Hayward who suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain in the final minutes in the Celtics’ Game 1 win, were led by their Big Three of Jayson Tatum (33 points), Kemba Walker (22 points) and Jaylen Brown (20 points).
But it was the team’s second unit in the second quarter that was the ultimate difference-maker on Wednesday.
Along with outscoring Philly’s backups 14-2 in the second, they were instrumental in limiting the Sixers as a whole to just 38.1 percent shooting from the field in the quarter as the Celtics outscored them 38-24 in the second while shooting a blistering 61.9 percent from the field.
Jayson Tatum: Tatum was an equal opportunity slayer in Game 2, leading all Celtics with 33 points including a number of jumpers and drives to the basket to deliver another performance that the Sixers defense simply had no answer for containing.
Joel Embiid: Embiid scores a lot in the first quarter. The Sixers look good. Philly loses control, and then the game. Rinse. Recyle. Repeat. Embiid had yet another monster game with 34 points and 10 rebounds, but it was yet another matchup in which his numbers were far, far greater than his overall impact.
Kemba Walker: With Gordon Hayward (ankle) out, it was imperative for Walker to not just score the ball more but do so in an efficient manner. He had 22 points, 13 of which came in a pivotal second-quarter surge by Boston. And he did so by shooting 8-for-16 for the game.
Jaylen Brown: You know you got it going on when you can drop 20 points in a playoff game and it not be that big a deal. He also grabbed five rebounds while doing a solid job defensively.
Enes Kanter: We mentioned the success of Boston’s bench earlier. One of the keys to that second unit success was Kanter who in addition to making Joel Embiid work for his points and rebounds, Kanter countered with a near double-double of his own with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Josh Richardson: Aside from Embiid, Richardson has been Philly’s most reliable player in the first two games. In Game 2, Richardson had 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field.
Romeo Langford: He only had six points but Langford’s play was among the many keys to Boston swinging the game’s momentum in their favor after falling behind by as many as 14 points in the first half. For Game 2, the Celtics were +26 when Langford was on the floor.
Shake Milton: He would finish with 14 points to go with four rebounds and three assists, a solid performance but Philly will need more – a lot more – from him in order to pull up an upset win going forward.
Al Horford: The former Celtic continues to deliver minimal statistically or when it comes to overall impact. In Game 2, he had four points while being a minus-11 when on the floor for the Sixers.
Matisse Thybulle: He replaced Al Horford in the starting lineup, but Thybulle wasn’t any better in terms of impacting the game in a positive way. Many of Jayson Tatum’s 33 points came with Thybulle guarding him, a far cry from Game 1 when Tatum missed seven of the nine shots he took when guarded by Thybulle.
Philly 3-point shooting: The Sixers were among the better 3-point shooting teams in the Bubble before the playoffs started. But Game 2 was yet another rough night shooting from long range for the Sixers, connecting on just 23.8 percent (5-for-31) of their 3-point attempts.