Brad Stevens tried to tell Celtics fans over and over again that beating Philadelphia, even this Ben Simmons-less Sixers team, was not going to be easy for his crew.
And true to his word, the Celtics found themselves in a tightly contested, down-to-the-final-minute battle with Philadelphia that eventually ended with Boston clinging to a 109-101 win as they took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 2 on Wednesday.
Boston’s depth has been its strength all season, and it was indeed on display in Game 1 with their Big Three on this night – Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker – each going into takeover mode at some point, which eventually proved to be too much for the Sixers.
The turning point in the game came in the second half when Boston went on a 20-6 run to lead 101-91 following a Walker lay-up.
And while the Sixers remained within striking distance, Boston played with the kind of poise under pressure in the game's closing moments to get the victory.
Jayson Tatum: The first half belonged to Jayson Tatum, which is when he scored 21 of his game-high 32 points to go along with 13 rebounds. Tatum also became the youngest Celtics player to tally a double-double of at least 30 points and 10 rebounds.
Joel Embiid: He came into this series as arguably the best player, and there was nothing he did in Game 1 that would suggest otherwise. The Celtics mixed up their coverage of him which led to a few turnovers, but there was no mistaking Embiid’s dominance as he finished with 26 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
Jaylen Brown: Tatum gave the Celtics control early on, but it was Brown whose clutch shooting in the fourth was arguably the difference in Boston getting the win. He would finish with 29 points, 15 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter.
Josh Richardson: The points don’t do justice to what Josh Richardson meant to the Sixers in Game 1. His scrappy play defensively, both on his man as well as in switches, was a much-needed defensive presence for the Sixers. He would finish with 18 points and six rebounds.
Kemba Walker: His first playoff game with the Celtics went off without a hitch. While Tatum and Brown put up big numbers all game, Walker delivered some much-needed points in the fourth quarter in helping Boston escape with a Game 1 victory. For the night, he finished with 19 points and five assists.
Celtics 3-point shooting: Boston has been among the better 3-point shooting teams in the league, but you wouldn’t have known that by how they shot the ball against Philly. The Celtics were 10-for-31 (32.3 percent) from 3-point range.
Team health: Gordon Hayward’s ankle sprain has some swelling, so his status for Game 2 is very much up in the air. The versatility that Boston has at the wing position was instrumental in its Game 1 win. Jaylen Brown suffered a thigh injury and was able to return, but he said following the game that he was in a lot of pain but, “It feels a lot better after a win.”