Not sure the Sixers were overconfident.
Oh, the fan base was, and the blowhard group of talking heads feeding that ever-expanding rabid fan base with inane, half-baked “juice” damn sure was.
But the team itself, the players, the coaches … nah, not buying it.
As the undercurrent of concern already swirls after a Game 1 loss in a best-of-seven, with itchy trigger fingers seemingly set to push the panic button at the slightest sign of trouble in Thursday night’s second edition of the Eastern Conference semifinals, here is what we now know:
- The Celtics, as presently constituted, are a faster, quicker team across the board than the Sixers.
- They are a better defensive team, particularly on the perimeter.
- They are a better-coached team – sorry, Brett Brown.
Are they better overall? That remains to be seen. With Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons leading the way, the Sixers do possess more “transcendental” star power, they are far bigger and, if they get hot from the outside, they’re capable of being just as dangerous as the Celtics were during a 17-for-35 barrage from beyond the arc in Boston’s 16-point victory Monday night as the teams renewed arguably the NBA’s most storied playoff rivalry.
Here’s the thing. The Sixers knew all this going in. Or should have.
The fans? The “geniuses” in Philly and across the nation with mic or keyboard at their disposal mocking the Celtics’ chances heading into the series? Umm, probably not.
Check that. Definitely not considering the arrogant, “Boston is beneath ‘us’” BS that permeated the predictions and putdowns that overflowed in such short order. With the Sixers still chilling after dispatching Miami in five games in Round 1, Celtics players barely had a chance to shower following a Game 7 Battle Royale to outlast Milwaukee before being hit with the “mere fodder” label since they had the suddenly immortal Sixers next.
Not for nothing, but that was nothing short of stupid … and uninformed.
Apologies to Vegas, or those forever beholden to its oddsmakers, not forthcoming, either.
The Sixers may, indeed, turn things around. Perhaps even quickly. Especially, say, if they pick up their own defense, they start hitting shots from the field and the line, and they stop viewing one guy as the end-all, be-all on both ends of the floor.
Yo, got it. Embiid is fun, and when you look at the boxscore after each game, there is no doubt the big fella produces. But at what cost? He is an enigma of the highest order, his jaw-dropping athleticism interminably intertwined with his trip-over-his-own-feet awkwardness just as his brain-fart bad decision-making is with his “atta guy, nice move” stuff.
Brown may have to suck it up and get more quicks on the floor at times with – oh, my … gasp – Markelle Fultz, and make more use of hard-nosed guys such as T.J. McConnell and Justin Anderson, too, to combat the Celtics’ toughness.
Because, we learned two other things the other night about the Sixers’ combatants:
- They clutch and grab all over the place … and get away with it.
- They push and shove all over the place … and get away with it.
Frankly, the Sixers didn’t handle either very well.
Fairing better against Brad Stevens’ schemes and rotations would be wise, too.
Otherwise we might be listening to an entire city, previously torn at the thought, unite in a quest to acquire LeBron James for next season.
Haters and chemistry experts be damned.
By reality and common sense.