The Boston Celtics hope to continue their perimeter-based assault on the Philadelphia 76ers when the Atlantic Division rivals meet in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series Friday night in the NBA bubble near Orlando.
The third-seeded Celtics have outscored the sixth-seeded 76ers 87-42 from beyond the 3-point arc in running up a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series being played at a neutral site.
Boston has won the games 109-101 and 128-101.
Jayson Tatum has averaged 32.5 points and Jaylen Brown 24.5 for Boston. As the 76ers have focused defenders on stopping the high-scoring players, other Celtics have been able to take advantage of their opportunities, guard Kemba Walker noted after Wednesday’s win.
“He’s a superstar,” Walker gushed of the 22-year-old Tatum. “He’s been showing it night-in, night-out. He just makes the right reads, man. He’s a special talent. As well as Jaylen. Jaylen’s a superstar as well. Those two guys are phenomenal basketball players.
“I love being around those two guys, I love the way they play basketball, I love how much they love the game of basketball. It’s just really fun to be around those guys. Really, really special dudes.”
Walker followed up a 19-point performance in Game 1 with 22 in the rematch, while Boston’s reserves, who went a combined 0-for-3 from beyond the arc in the opener, were solid from deep with 7-for-9 success in Game 2.
Boston has made a total of 29 threes in the series, and that’s killing the 76ers, star big man Joel Embiid observed.
“You’ve gotta pick your poison,” he said after Wednesday’s loss. “Jayson has been killing it, so you’ve gotta find a way to get the ball out of his hands.
“I know they want me to sit back on pick-and-rolls and protect the basket, but they’ve just been coming off and making a lot of threes, so we’ve gotta make adjustments. Either I’ve gotta come up and we’ve gotta scramble all over the place or something’s gotta change. It feels too easy. They’re just walking into those shots. We’ve gotta fix that.”
Tatum shot 8-for-12 on 3-pointers in Game 2, making him 10-for-17 in the series.
Meanwhile, the 76ers as a team have made a total of just 14 threes, with Embiid (1-for-6) and Tobias Harris (0-for-5) combining to go 1-for-11.
Josh Richardson has made five of the 76ers’ 14 threes, but even his percentage (5-for-12) has not been great. Philadelphia has connected on just 29.2 percent from beyond the arc in the two games.
The 76ers’ bench has offered little help. The Philadelphia reserves have shot just 3-for-13 on 3-pointers.
Both teams were missing key starters in Game 2, and that’s not about to change. 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons is out for the season with a knee injury, while the Celtics’ Gordon Hayward likely will miss the rest of the series with a sprained ankle.
The Celtics started Marcus Smart in Hayward’s place and the 76ers have promoted Matisse Thybulle into Simmons’ spot. Boston even got the better of that exchange, with Smart outscoring Thybulle 10-2 in Game 2.
–Field Level Media