Updated: Oct 9
Yesterday, the Boston Celtics completed the sweep of the Philadelphia 76ers, winning 110-106. The sheer dominance the Celtics displayed can be attributed to two main factors: the 76ers' organizational dysfunction and injury misfortune and the strong play of the young Celtics.
The 76ers came into the series already depleted, as Ben Simmons partially dislocated his kneecap and Joel Embiid had been struggling with a nagging ankle issue. Still, Philadelphia was forced to rely on Embiid as their primary offensive threat. While he is an extremely skilled big man with unusually graceful footwork, injuries have been a constant threat to his career. From a stress fracture in his back to surgery on the navicular bone in his foot to a meniscus tear in his knee, fans hold their collective breath every time he takes the floor. Another concern regarding Embiid's success is his conditioning, or lack thereof. Anyone can watch a game from this series and see that he is seriously fatigued. One can point out his sheer workload over the four games as the Sixers' primary offensive threat; Embiid averaged almost 36 minutes a game during the series.
Many fans, analysts, and NBA insiders are aware that the Sixers were under major pressure to perform in this year's playoffs. Ever since Ben Simmons was drafted first overall in 2016, questions about his fit with Embiid have consistently circulated. Simmons' lack of shooting ability limits his scoring range to the paint. Unfortunately, most of Joel Embiid's scoring ability comes from within the paint as well. This logjam near the basket has created spacing issues for years, and general manager Elton Brand's inability to surround his two stars with 3-point shooting has only made matters worse. While some propose trading one of the stars, the lack of responsibility and consistency in the front office would not be fixed.
Now, this coming offseason may bring major changes to the 76ers organization. Rumors about Brett Brown's job security have circulated the entire season, and he may be out of a job before this year's champions are declared. Josh Richardson, a shooting guard for Philadelphia said in a video conference that Brown needs to "have some more accountability."
While the Celtics certainly were fortunate to play the 76ers at a weak point, credit must be given to both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the team's emerging stars. After Gordon Hayward went down in Game 1 with a Grade 3 ankle sprain, the Celtics needed to know that Tatum and Brown would pick up the slack. Both Tatum and Brown averaged over 20 points during the four game rout of Philadelphia.
Arguably the most important storyline of the Celtics' performance is Jayson Tatum's emergence as the team's superstar and frequent 4th-quarter go-to. During the series, Tatum averaged 27 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.3 blocks, while shooting a 45% clip from behind the arc. In Game 1, he set a personal career-high playoff record with 13 rebounds, only to put up 15 in Game 4. Additionally, Tatum scored most of the Celtics' points during their 12-0 run in Game 4 to close out the series. While he has proved himself as a more than capable scorer, he is beginning to show more fight on the defensive end as well.
What's beautiful about the Boston Celtics is their sheer depth. Gordon Hayward is their fourth-best player, yet has put up All-Star caliber seasons. During the fourth quarter, Boston has the option to lean on Tatum, Brown, or Kemba Walker has their offensive threat. It is still much appreciated to see that Jayson Tatum has blossomed into a bona fide star that can become the one who closes out games in the future.
It was not just good fortune that allowed the Boston Celtics to sweep the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics' chemistry is as strong as ever, and Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker are one of the strongest cores in the NBA. With that being said, the 76ers have some work to do. Philadelphia is expected to move on from Brett Brown, and Elton Brand could soon follow. It is only a matter of time until moves are made to bring stability and consistent success to The City of Brotherly Love.