Thursday, May 4, 2023

Celtics 121, 76ers 87: Jaylen Brown, Malcolm Brogdon spoil Joel Embiid's Game 2 return [series tied, 1-1]

The Celtics made adjustments to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 121-87 Wednesday night at TD Garden and even their Eastern Conference semifinals best-of-7 series 1-1.

Jaylen Brown spoiled the return of league MVP Joel Embiid (LCL sprain) by leading all scorers with 25 points on 9-of-17 from the field and 3-of-6 from deep, to go along with four assists and two steals -- while picking up the slack of fellow All-Star teammate Jayson Tatum, who never got it going offensively (seven points on 1-of-7 shooting and seven rebounds) and dealt with foul trouble through the first two and half quarters.
"I think we've just got to take more pride in ourselves. That's it," Brown said in his postgame presser. "I just feel like we underperformed last game. We wanted to come out and play to the best of our ability. And that's what we did."
After a disappointing 119-115 Game 1 loss, the C's had a more balanced approach on both ends of the floor in Game 2 -- limiting the Sixers to only 39.2% from the floor and 20% from behind the arc, while having five players register double-figures in scoring.

Malcolm Brogdon finished with 23 points off the bench, hitting 6-of-10 from 3-point territory, while Marcus Smart and Derrick White each added 15 points respectively to help the Celtics snap a two-game skid at home.

Meanwhile, Tobias Harris netted 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds as the lead man for the Sixers. Emiid played his first game since April 20 to record 15 points on 4-of-9 from the field, three rebounds and five blocks in 27 minutes of action.

Ultimately, the newly crowned NBA's Most Valuable Player couldn't pass up the opportunity to help Philly potentially go up 2-0, despite showing signs of rust and no rhythm on offense.    
"I felt pretty good to play and I felt like I could help the team," Embiid said in his postgame comments. "I feel like I just got this out the way. Disappointed by the loss. But that's a step toward getting back to myself."
Tyrese Maxey chipped in 13 points and James Harden recorded a double-double of 12 points, 10 assists after tying a playoff career-high of 45 points -- including the 3-pointer that clinched the win in the final seconds of Game 1.

In a much slower paced start to Game 2, Boston was ahead 57-49 at the break which ballooned into an 18-point lead to open the third, before Tatum picked up his fourth foul at the 7:34 mark when he knocked Harden to the floor trying to fight through a screen.

The Sixers cut the deficit to 13 (73-60) with 4:23 left in the quarter, but the Celtics closed the period on a 19-5 run to take a comfortable 92-65 advantage into the final frame and eventually give Philly their first postseason loss.

With the series now tied at a game apiece, what should Boston expect as the series shifts to the Wells Fargo Center in less than 48 hours?
"Hostile environment. But it should be fun," Brown responded when asked. "We should all be excited to embrace that challenge."
The Celtics and 76ers will do battle in Game 3 Friday night with a 7:30 ET tip-off on ESPN.

Game Notes:

Boston connected on 46.7% from the field, including 20-of-51 (39.2%) from 3, while the 76ers were 31-of-79 from the floor and 6-of-30 from long distance. The Celtics out-rebounded Philly 46-41 and outscored them in the paint 36-34. The C's had 26 assists (seven turnovers) on 43 baskets, while the Sixers had 13 dimes (13 turnovers) on 31 made shots.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy Getty Images

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