On Monday evening the sixth seed Sixers squared off against the third seed Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Playoffs. The game plan if you’re the Sixers seems so obvious that a first time NBA viewer could figure it out, but, apparently neither the coach of the Sixers, Brett Brown, or anyone on the team seems to understand it so I’m going to do my best to explain it in the simplest of terms.
Philadelphia has a player, a great player, some say a generational talent named Joel Embiid, he’s 7-feet tall and an absolute monster. The tallest player on the Celtics (excluding Tacko Fall who is 7 foot 5 but is not playing) is Enes Kanter at 6 foot 10, and he isn’t even the starter. No, the Celtics are matching up Joel Embiid with Daniel Theis who happens to be 6 foot 8. No disrespect to Daniel Theis but this match up shouldn’t even be close.
In the first quarter it seemed as though Philadelphia had at least understood that they need to get Joel Embiid the ball and to give credit where credit is due, Brett Brown deserves none. The Sixers ran the same static post pass from Shake Milton and Alec Burks over and over again hoping it would work and it did! For about 10 minutes, Embiid went 7-8 and then Brad Stevens the coach of the Celtics does what he does best and adjusted. He doubled Embiid every single time he touched the ball with Marcus Smart. Embiid somehow only had 15 shots the entire game.
The last 6:52 of the game the Celtics were up 6. Alec Burks dribbles down the court and puts up a jumper, miss. Boston comes back down the floor Jaylen Brown misses a fade away jump shot, but Grant Williams has a big-time effort play and recovers the offensive board dishes to Jason Tatum who drives the paint and passes out to Marcus Smart who bricks an open three. 5:53 left in the fourth quarter Joel Embiid checks in to the game. Harris then takes a three, which misses, Embiid then corrals the rebound and gets fouled sending him to the line, he hits both 88-92. Gordon Hayward then easily lays it up. Sixers have the ball Alec Burks then takes another jump shot and gets it to go with the and-1. He hits the shot for a three-point play and Philadelphia is down by three.
Kemba Walker hits a beautiful jump shot from the right side of the paint. The next play Josh Richardson has the ball gets around his defender thanks to a screen by Joel Embiid he is now covered by Daniel Theis, which means there is a mismatch for Joel Embiid who is being guarded by Kemba Walker. Apparently, Richardson does not realize this and tries to make a layup at the rim only to get blocked by Jason Tatum. Boston runs the court and in transition finds Jaylen Brown for an easy three Celtics go up by 8.
With 4:28 left to play down by 8 Brett Brown remembers he can call a timeout. The play, I guess you can call it a play is Alec Burks carrying the ball up the floor while Embiid goes deep inside the paint, then as Embiid battles for position Burks passes to Tobias Harris who pump fakes a three then loses the handle only to pass it off to Richardson. Embiid is still below the rim, Richardson looks at Embiid pumps as if he’s about to pass to Embiid then decides not to try and make a play instead he passes it back to Harris who throws up a contested three-point attempt that bricks.
At 2:25 left in the fourth quarter Embiid receives his first pass from a teammate since re-entering the game. He gets fouled by Daniel Theis giving Theis 5. Embiid hits both shots. Celtics up 6. A shot by Marcus Smart on the other end misses and the Sixers come down the court and on a scramble play at the rim get a put back from Alec Burks. Sixers are only down 4 now. At 1:28 Doris Burke implores the Sixers to be patient and to give the ball to Embiid, which doesn’t happen instead Harris takes a contested jump shot. Game gets a bit close with 49 seconds left but ultimately the Celtics pull away.
Now there a few things you can point to as to why they lost. Ben Simmons being out is definitely a problem but by no means is it the reason they lost. 18 turnovers for the Sixers was glaring but again probably not the main reason they lost. No, the reason the Sixers lost is because for the last 6 minutes of a close playoff game Joel Embiid received one pass from his teammates and frankly that is unacceptable.
When asked about giving the ball more to Joel Embiid in the post Brett Brown responded by saying he believes a lot of their turnover problems stemmed from Embiid getting stood up in the post and poor passing from the post generally.
At this point if you’re a Sixers fan none of this is new it happened all year… constantly. It’s just tragic to see the prime years for Joel Embiid be completely wasted because of bad coaching, horrible roster moves and unfortunate injuries. If Elton Brand and Brett Brown return next year and I were Joel Embiid I would demand a trade.