Stars pave way for season-opening win: 10 takeaways from Boston Celtics-Philadelphia 76ers
1. It wasn’t a perfect start to the Boston Celtics’ 2022-23 season, but it was more than enough. On a night when Boston celebrated the life and legacy of Bill Russell, the Celtics showed off the dominating play they showed in the second half of last season.
Boston managed to keep control of the ball, with an assist-to-turnover ratio just over 2-to-1. They pushed the pace. The defense was a bit inconsistent, but that was to be expected, especially working in several new faces. And Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were superstars and made plays whenever Boston needed them.
All in all, it was a good victory to open a long campaign. And beating another top Eastern Conference team in the Philadelphia 76ers doesn’t hurt either.
2. Jayson Tatum could make a leap from MVP this season. He fired nine free throw attempts. He flashed some new moves. And he went on to show the world that he was a tremendous defender too.
Tatum started the night off with a nice defensive play against the quick Tyrese Maxey:
This offseason, Tatum has been working on his float. It’s a shot he can get often, but hasn’t landed very often in his first five years. So far so good for his effort:
The Celtics made a big effort to push the ball (we’ll talk about that later!) throughout the game. If you don’t pair properly, or are sloppy with your switches, Tatum is going to get you:
In some circles (this space included), we begged Tatum and Jaylen Brown to make more off-ball cuts. Boston has the passers to facilitate the offense. This is a classic Princeton backdoor cut by Tatum here for easy pose:
3. Jaylen Brown was utterly equal to Jayson Tatum in leading the Celtics to victory. If Boston can maintain their fast offense, Brown will be a real weapon. He is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this style of play. But more to come!
Brown was also very good at half court. A handful of times he showed a tight dribble. This allowed Brown to attack slower players and get to his spots, like he did here on the float:
A handful of times in the preseason, Brown showed another hesitant dribble by going to his left. At times like these, he usually stopped for a sweater. On this play, Brown uses the hesi, but takes all of his space to the edge:
Over the years, the Celtics have had great success in Joel Embiid in falls coverage. The main attackers against this coverage were guys like Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward, as all of them possess a very good pull-up. That’s Brown’s role now:
4. If you want to beat the 76ers, you need to shuffle your covers against Joel Embiid. Al Horford does as good a job as anyone of covering Embiid 1-on-1, but Boston still threw a lot of doubles. And the Celtics love to dig when Embiid does his tricks around the nail.
In this game, Boston also did a good job attacking Embiid early before Philadelphia could even get into anything on offense. It was a good transition choice from Marcus Smart before leaving it to Jayson Tatum:
In the second half, Jaylen Brown read that Embiid tried quite often to get the ball up himself. A bit of pressure from Noah Vonleh, a lazy pass from Embiid and the result is Brown attacking Embiid to the edge:
5. In the preseason, the Celtics were a bad rebounding team. Without Robert Williams, that looks like a major weakness for this group. The guards and wings have to crash into the glass to help the big ones.
Three minutes into the game, Philadelphia had grabbed three offensive rebounds. It looked like it could be long on the boards for Boston.
But the Celtics have cleaned things up considerably. In the last 45 minutes, the Sixers grabbed just one offensive rebound. Overall, Boston passed Philadelphia for the night at both ends of the field, led by Jayson Tatum’s 12 rebounds.
6. The Celtics may regret not extending Grant Williams. Williams is going to play a lot for this team, especially if he plays like he did in this game. He made his defensive stuff solid, switchable and versatile. And Williams picked up where he left off as a shooter. Williams also flashed some new stuff.
The finish here was a little awkward, but it was really good to see Williams driving the fence for a bucket in the paint:
Williams is also a better passer than his stats have shown. He regularly reads well. Putting Williams in more action will result in more assists, as is the case here on the small roll:
7. Malcolm Brogdon’s Boston debut couldn’t have gone better. He’s everything the Celtics needed. Steady and reliable on the ball as a taker or playmaker. Brogdon will help calm everyone down when the going gets tough.
It was a great run for Brogdon’s first field goal in Boston:
A few plays later, Brogdon hit a classic Brogdon move: the basic pull-up:
Both Brogdon and Derrick White have very, very high basketball IQs. They will catch you sleeping if you are not locked up. This was only the first time we can expect to see pieces like this:
8. We’ve mentioned a few times that Boston is picking up the pace. The Celtics were looking to run at every opportunity. Ultimately, Boston beat Philadelphia 24-2 in quick break points, and the transition margin will likely be a bit higher as well.
Jaylen Brown beats everyone to the loose rebound here and he’s gone. With Joel Embiid still in the backcourt, Brown heads straight for the rim in transition:
Once the rebound is secured, Brown turns on the jets. Smart takes the exit and he immediately has his head held high looking for runners and it’s Brown with the finish:
If Jayson Tatum is going to get on the glass like he did in this game, then he will become a major threat to tear up and run off the boards. This is one of those games where Tatum knows he’s the best player on the court, because he drives for the and-1:
9. We’ll end with some love for local guy Noah Vonleh. Vonleh was called up earlier than expected, due to big problems, and his first stint was a little awkward. But Vonleh settled in and had a really positive impact on the game.
It’s a great find from Malcolm Brogdon, and Vonleh does a wonderful job creating his space for the finish:
If you’re a big guy and want to play for Boston, you have to figure it out when picking a perimeter player. Vonleh does exactly that against Tyrese Maxey on this record:
10. It’s only one win, but it’s always nice to start the year with a win. After everything the Celtics went through to end the offseason, it was good to see them come out and beat another title contender.
Now we have to hurry and wait for the next one. Boston has the next two days off, before heading south for a back-to-back set at Miami and Orlando. After allowing the 76ers to shoot 50%, it’s a lock that Joe Mazzulla will use this time in practice to work on clearing the covers.
But those are tricky things for this space to worry about. The season is off to a good start. That’s more than enough to celebrate for now.