With Joel Embiid out, Ben Simmons, Al Horford and the 76ers bludgeoned the Celtics – ESPN

12:21 AM ET

  • Tim BontempsESPN

PHILADELPHIA — In the first two conferences among the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers this time, the Sixers bludgeoned the Celtics into submission.

People video games, though, highlighted superstar center Joel Embiid, one particular of the league’s most important and heaviest objects. Boston experienced been helpless to stop him. But Embiid was not on the court Thursday night time. Instead, he was on his way to New York, in which he’ll have medical procedures on his dislocated left ring finger Friday.

So, with Embiid out of the lineup, issues would go otherwise for the Celtics … correct?

Not exactly.

“I believe the massive photo [change] is just matchups-intelligent with the guys that they have, and the size and scoring skill that we have,” Sixers forward Tobias Harris said.

Right after the Sixers arrived absent with a 109-98 victory about the Celtics, a person detail is obvious: Regardless of whether Embiid is balanced or not, the Celtics have a Sixers dilemma.

Al Horford — is donning a Sixers uniform.

It has been an awkward year for Horford in Philadelphia. He and Embiid have struggled to co-exist on the court docket. He has looked unpleasant shifting absent from the matters that created him a person of the NBA’s most functional large males and a participant the Sixers had been intent on including this offseason.

But with Embiid sidelined, Horford was back again to enjoying heart complete time. He put up exactly the kind of video game that he had so several instances the past three decades for Boston, ending with seventeen points on seven-for-eleven taking pictures to go with eight rebounds, six helps, a steal and two blocks. The 76ers outscored the Celtics by 19 details in Horford’s 32 minutes on the floor.

“Coming right here, I predicted to engage in the 4, but I know one particular of my strengths as a player is to engage in inside, engage in outside, engage in the 4, enjoy the 5, guard unique positions on the court, and I was anticipating that,” Horford claimed. “I understood anywhere I’m required that is one of the strengths that I deliver, to be in a position to do different items.”

Horford frequently outmuscled former understudy Daniel Theis inside of, grabbing 5 offensive rebounds. His passing helped unlock a Philadelphia offense that went eleven-for-27 (forty.7%) from 3-place array. By shifting all-around their defensive coverages to accentuate Horford’s strengths, as opposed to Embiid’s, the Sixers pressured the Celtics into fifty misses on 88 shots, erasing an early fifteen-point deficit.

“I considered they just bodily wore on us,” Celtics mentor Brad Stevens explained.

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That was specifically accurate of Ben Simmons, who received whichever he preferred. It was a significantly cry from the playoff sequence two several years ago in which the Celtics exposed Simmons’ deficiency of a bounce shot. He didn’t need one particular Thursday night time, continuously bullying the Celtics in the paint. He was in a position to get a toddler hook shot when he needed, and mentioned afterward he “undoubtedly” sought to put up up a lot more with Embiid out of the video game.

Everyone observing the match could not assist but discover he was capable to do what he wished bodily no issue who was guarding him.

“I suggest, he does that all the time,” Harris explained with a smile.

He isn’t completely wrong. But occasionally, with all of the sounds that surrounds Simmons — and specifically that lack of a bounce shot — it is straightforward to ignore almost everything that he does do. And, in this sport, he showcased just about all of it, which includes enjoying a number of minutes at heart when Horford was off the ground. Which is the edge Philadelphia has with having a 6-foot-10 issue guard even without the need of Embiid, the Sixers nevertheless are bigger than the Celtics at just about every place.

Simmons smothered the Celtics defensively, like poking the ball absent from Kemba Walker for a steal at a important second halfway by way of the fourth quarter. And Sixers coach Brett Brown authorized Simmons to press the tempo in a way Philadelphia only won’t be able to when Embiid is all over, to the gain of all involved.

“Just imposing his will,” Horford claimed of Simmons. “He is pretty gifted bodily and made some good moves in the post, pushing the tempo.

“It is really rough to guard him in the open up floor. I consider his power, with that, it truly is contagious, and it gets us all heading. And, obviously, that was the change.”

was having a toll on him.

Now the Sixers have gained two game titles in a row in opposition to playoff-sure opponents — the Thunder on Monday and the Celtics on Thursday — and Boston is in the midst of its initially 3-recreation dropping streak of the period. The Celtics also have formally lost the year series to the Sixers thanks to Thursday’s reduction, a little something that could appear into engage in as a tiebreaker in April.

“No one desires to lose,” stated Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who scored 24 factors off the bench. “And every person is attempting to determine it out. … It happens. We have just obtained to be completely ready to change it all over and keep playing. That is the only way.”

The Sixers are still attempting to figure items out much too. Whilst some parts may possibly fit far better with no Embiid on the court docket, that isn’t going to indicate Philadelphia is better off with no their best participant.

“The number of of us realized that because he was not enjoying, we were being heading to have to be more intense because he is really potentially the ideal heart in the recreation and he’s a enormous piece of our offense,” mentioned Josh Richardson, who scored fourteen of his video game-superior 29 factors in the fourth quarter to aid near out the Celtics. “We knew that it truly is type of a psychological note that you have to get heading into it. I knew early on that I was likely to have to be intense to give our offense a excellent shot.”

With Embiid out for a though — the crew mentioned Thursday he will be reevaluated in a single to two weeks — the Sixers will have to continue to generate good trends in the course of his absence. One particular of them should be the improved enjoy from Horford. Yet another is further more building an identity in the minutes that Embiid is off the court, and when Simmons is out there with Horford.

No matter if that happens or not, the Sixers can sense very good about how they match up with the Celtics. If there was any question about that prior to Thursday night time, it’s absent now.