Pros and Cons: Sixers vs. Celtics
Instant observations after Sixers-Celtics.
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
Who doesn’t love a good rivalry? For the third time this season, the Sixers faced off against the Boston Celtics tonight after the teams split their first two matchups. Here’s what’s on my mind tonight:
Pro: Sixers defense smothers Celtics
When the Sixers allowed eight Boston points in the first two and a half minutes of the game, it seemed like tonight’s game might become a continuation of Wednesday’s loss to Charlotte in which their defense faltered, allowing the Hornets to run away with a victory.
That’s when things changed. In the remaining 21 and a half minutes of the first half, the Sixers allowed only 27 points -- yes, you read that right.
Albeit against an inconsistent Boston offense, the Sixers swarmed the Celtics at the perimeter, generating 11 turnovers in the first half alone (six of which belonged to Boston star Jayson Tatum). This won’t shock anyone, but Matisse Thybulle did an excellent job — both on Tatum and as a free-roamer — helping set the tone defensively.
Whether it was Tatum, Jaylen Brown or any of Boston’s other options, the Sixers looked as prepared as can be to make every possession a difficult one. And when the Celtics were able to get to the rim, their shots were predictably altered by Joel Embiid, who was his typical stalwart self.
Con: Shake Milton out for significant period of time
Milton suffered a back injury last week against Houston that has kept him sidelined since. According to Doc Rivers, he won’t be returning any time soon.
In his pregame media availability, Rivers jokingly suggested that he could beat Milton in a race right now, painting an ominous picture of the guard’s current status. Rivers said this is not a surgical matter, but it is one that will keep Milton sidelined for a significant period of time.
Milton surely hasn’t had a perfect season, but his absence does leave a hole in the rotation. With Ben Simmons away from the team, Milton’s absence leaves Tyrese Maxey as the only player on the team with a considerable amount of experience at the point guard position.
For the time being, it will be Seth Curry and Furkan Korkmaz tag-teaming to handle the backup point guard responsibilities. Both have shown flashes of being capable of handling those duties at times this season, but it isn’t the optimal role for either one.
Pro: Tyrese Maxey’s evolution as a shooter continues
After a game a few weeks back, Embiid made a point to publicly implore Maxey to become a more confident shooter from beyond the arc. The very next game, Maxey nailed a then-career-high five threes before going into COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Now that he’s back on the floor, Maxey continues to adhere to his center’s wishes. That career-high five threes? The Sixers’ second-year point guard matched it tonight, shooting the lights out from deep.
The most surprising part is that Maxey still has a ways to go in that department. He continues to excel, but not without drawbacks -- even on a night like tonight, Maxey passed up at least a few open threes. He is somewhat timid as a shooter, even though his skill level suggests he shouldn’t be.
Maxey has already proven he can get to the rim and finish when he’s there. He’s shown off his excellent mid-range and floater games as well. The next step -- and the one that could lead him to genuine stardom -- is becoming more assertive from beyond the arc. Once that happens… good luck to the rest of the league.