Here’s What Celtics Did To ‘Eat Up’ 76ers In Game 2 Blowout

'Their ball pressure ate us up all night'


May 3, 2023

BOSTON — The Celtics put together a good ole fashioned butt whooping Wednesday night at TD Garden.

The dominant win was enough to tie their Eastern Conference semifinals series with the 76ers at 1-1, sending things back to Philadelphia with a new outlook on how the remainder of the series might play out. The Celtics, as head coach Joe Mazzulla has been asking, got back to their game and nearly doubled their three-point attempt total from Game 1, entering with a clear point of emphasis and executing it perfectly.

The Sixers’ struggles stemmed from what the C’s did on the defensive end, however.

” Give them credit. I thought their ball pressure ate us up all night,” 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said postgame. “I thought they pressured us. They denied us. They played in our air space all game. We talked about it this morning before the game, you can talk about intensity and force all you want, but when you get on the court it’s actually applied to you. We didn’t handle it very well tonight. We’ll be better.”

The Celtics pressured the ball on nearly every possession, sparking a number of possessions that were clearly uncomfortable from the point of the 76ers. Though Philly turned it over just 11 times, a number that was better than any season-long average in the NBA, the clear issue came as the away team routinely forced shots up, either at the end of a shot clock or as the Celtics’ help defense came crashing in.

Joel Embiid — who made his return from a knee injury — looked far from his MVP form despite blocking five shots. The 29-year-old finished with just 15 points and three rebounds, turning the ball over three times and putting up a minus-23 in the box score.

That was by design.

“He’s their focal point. We know that,” Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon said postgame. “We just didn’t know if he was going to be their focal point or be in shape, because he took so many days off. So we just wanted to run him and I thought we did a good job of that. We’ll see how he bounces back next game.”

“They did what they always do,” Embiid said postgame. “They kept attacking the rim and I kept blocking shots, but I didn’t block enough shots. … I thought protecting the rim, it was fine. We just weren’t able to keep the ball in front of us. If you can’t keep the ball in front of you that’s going to create rotations and give up wide-open threes.”

As the series shifts to the City of Brotherly Love, the 76ers will certainly make adjustments just as the Celtics did entering Game 2. Only this time, it will be based off what the opponent did to dictate play and not self-inflicted mistakes.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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