The Boston Celtics lost Game 1 at home to the Philadelphia 76ers 119-115. After the news broke that Joel Embiid would be sidelined for at least Game 1, an opportunity presented itself for the Celtics. The problem for Boston was that they overlooked their opponent. Instead of approaching the game like a must-win, it was a lackadaisical effort. James Harden stepped up and hit the dagger with just seconds remaining.
On top of not shooting the ball particularly well, the Celtics turned the ball over at an alarming clip. Those mistakes, mixed with an incredible performance from James Harden, resulted in a loss. Once again, Boston dropped a game this postseason that seemed like a favorable matchup.
Jayson Tatum played an almost perfect game posting 39 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. Not only did he produce in every statistical category, but he also only had 1 turnover with his incredible usage rate. Jaylen Brown played ok, putting up 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. The problem was his 4 turnovers and Marcus Smart, who had 6 turnovers by himself in Game 1.
Boston Celtics: Three Reasons for Game 1 Loss
Reason 1: The Boston Celtics Were -10 in the Turnover Battle
The Boston Celtics shot themselves in the foot throughout the game. Decision-making and timely turnovers killed what looked to be a victory in Game 1. Boston had a lead for most of the 4th quarter and threw it away at the end. Two plays that cost the Boston Celtics the game were the Malcolm Brogdon turnover to Tyrese Maxey for a dunk and Smart’s last-second turnover on an attempted pass to Jayson Tatum.
Mental lapses and miscommunication cost the Celtics crucial possessions. This type of play is not good enough for an NBA game, much less an Eastern Conference Semifinal at home. Boston turned the ball over 16 times in Game 1 compared to just 6 for the 76ers. It is a category that has been a point of emphasis by this Celtics team.
Reason 2: The Boston Celtics Only Made 10 Triples
A team in the Boston Celtics, who average 15 made three per game on 37 attempts in the playoffs, only went 10/26. The Boston Celtics seemingly lost their identity throughout the game and played by the 76ers’ rules. Philadelphia dictated the tempo and outshot the Celtics from deep, knocking down 17 triples.
In addition, to the shooting struggles, Boston shot a staggering 14 fewer shots in Game 1. Obviously, the main cause of this was the turnovers, but percentages show more shots will lead to more points. Without Embiid, it was clear that Boston’s game plan was to attack the paint. Outscoring the 76ers 66-42 in points in the paint, but this got away from the Boston Celtics’ biggest strength, which is the three-ball.
Reason 3: James Harden put up 45 on the Boston Celtics
James Harden showed out in Joel Embiid’s absence posting an astounding 45 points and 6 assists. According to Paul Hembekides of ESPN, James Harden’s 45 points are the most by a visiting player in 76ers-Celtics playoff history. Tonight was their 110th meeting. In addition, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey outscored Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, which is another reason Boston fell in Game 1.
The 45 points are the most that James Harden has scored in a 76ers uniform. In Boston as a member of the Brooklyn Nets on May 28th, 2021, in Game 3 of the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Overall, having lost Game 1 to the Philadelphia 76ers, it is a must-win on Wednesday night at TD Garden.