|Photo: Associated Press|
When the Philadelphia 76ers opened up a 21-13 lead midway through the first quarter, the Celtics adjusted their interior defense, took the lead and never gave it back.
The Celtics blew out the 76ers in their home opener at TD Garden, 112-95. Isaiah Thomas finished with 27 points, 7 assists and three steals. Amir Johnson contributed 15 points, seven rebounds off the bench and Marcus Smart chipped in 13 points, five assists.
Philly's first round pick, Jahlil Okafor scored a team-high 26 points, and Massachusetts-native Nerlens Noel notched a double-double -- 14 points and 12 rebounds.
After missing his first four attempts in the first quarter, Thomas finished the half with 10 points and was red hot in the second. The 76ers had no answer for Isaiah while he tallied 27 points. And despite the slow start Thomas wasn't afraid to keep shooting.
"That's my job," Thomas said. "I'm not going to be shy when I got a job to do out there. Coach has confidence in me. My teammates have confidence in me, and they tell me to continue being aggressive so I do that."The turning point of the game took place in the first half when the Celtics sparked a 14-2 run, opening up a 40-30 second quarter lead. After Okafor scored 10 consecutive points in just under six minutes against Tyler Zeller, Stevens turned to Jared Sullinger to guard Okafor.
"Everybody's gotta be ready," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "I told Tyler at halftime, 'This may not be your night but there's going to be plenty of them.' So just kind of stayed the course. I'm kind of glad to see [Zeller] finished well and he actually defended really well I thought at the end of the game, too."Sullinger, who finished the night with 12 points and 7 rebounds, did a good job defending -- pushing Okafor out of the paint. And when Stevens subbed in Amir Johnson for David Lee, the Celtics got their offense going.
Johnson, who has shown signs of becoming the Celtics' best rim protector, blocked the first two shots he saw. He also made things difficult for the 76ers' big men, forcing Nerlens Noel to take awkward fade-aways and trapping Okafor into double-teams. Johnson finished the game with 11 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
"Our bench has to be a great source of energy and scoring and everything else for us," said coach Stevens after the game. "I thought they came out of the gates great."Kelly Olynyk was inactive due to a 1-game suspension for his foul on Kevin Love in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Love suffered a dislocated shoulder on the play. RJ Hunter was also unavailable (illness).
The Celtics will play their second game of the season on Friday night at TD Garden against the Toronto Raptors.