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Ben Simmons Outduels Kemba Walker as 76ers Beat Celtics in Season Opener

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorOctober 24, 2019

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 23: Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers handles the ball against the Boston Celtics on October 23, 2019 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers opened the 2019-20 season with a 107-93 victory over the Boston Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday.

Ben Simmons nearly posted a triple-double for the 76ers, who outscored the Celtics by 13 points in the second half.

Boston shot 36.7 percent from the field and 58.8 percent at the free-throw line.

Both teams featured new personnel. Point guard Kemba Walker and center Enes Kanter made their first appearances in Celtics green, while former Celtic Al Horford and Josh Richardson debuted for the 76ers.

          

Notable Performances

Celtics F Gordon Hayward: 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting, 5 rebounds

Celtics F Jayson Tatum: 21 points on 8-of-22 shooting, 10 rebounds

Celtics PG Kemba Walker: 12 points on 4-of-18 shooting

76ers G Ben Simmons: 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting, 9 assists, 8 rebounds

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76ers F Tobias Harris: 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, 15 rebounds

76ers C Joel Embiid: 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks

      

76ers' Size Too Much for Boston

The shortest player in the 76ers' starting lineup is 6'5" shooting guard Josh Richardson. He's a stout defender, as evidenced by this block on Gordon Hayward:

Philadelphia 76ers @sixers

.@J_Rich1 not having it tonight!!! https://t.co/jkwAxCqO48

The shortest rotation player off the bench is 6'5" Matisse Thybulle. He's also a serious problem for opponents, as evidenced by the hustle that led to an impressive block on Kemba Walker.

Philadelphia 76ers @sixers

.@MatisseThybulle content you will want to see. 👋 https://t.co/8kkBPWmY9U

And those were the smallest players in the Sixers' rotation. Everyone else poses a threat as well, which makes Philadelphia an early candidate for the league's most efficient defense this season.

The C's couldn't get anything going offensively as they battled against the 76ers' height and length. That helped Philadelphia compensate for a poor shooting night.

The 76ers dominated on the boards (62-41), at the defensive end (13 steals and blocks versus the Celtics' six) and points in the paint (58-44). Their height and length was key on a few notable plays, including an Embiid block on Jaylen Brown that led to a Tobias Harris bucket:

Philadelphia 76ers @sixers

.@JoelEmbiid says 👋 @tobias31 gets ✌ https://t.co/0EgGsuS6BL

 

On the other end, Philadelphia hit only 43.5 percent of its shot attempts, with Joel Embiid going 5-of-14. The 76ers also shot only 7-of-29 from deep.

But the 76ers can get away with that on most nights so long as their defense remains this stingy. That breathing room will be crucial as Philadelphia looks to win its first NBA title since 1983.

     

Celtics Can't Overcome Poor Shooting Performance

Winning ugly in the NBA was common in mid-to-late 1990s, when physical defenses and painfully slow offenses made it difficult for teams to crack the 100-point threshold.

The Celtics had a chance to win ugly on a night where the teams combined to commit 63 personal fouls and shoot 14-of-55 from three-point range. 

But the shots did not fall.

Kemba Walker missed 14 of his 18 shot attempts. Jayson Tatum shot 8-of-22. The bench combined to go 5-of-21. 

The 76ers' size played a factor there, and it's possible that road dates against Philadelphia will be the toughest defensive tests the C's face all year.

But the Celtics also struggled from the free-throw line. They were 13-of-26 late in the game until rebounding to shoot 20-of-34 (58.8 percent).

Shooting that poorly and surviving to win is near-impossible in an era of high-powered offenses, and the Celtics faltered.

Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports highlighted a few silver linings from the 14-point loss:

Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA

Bright spots for Boston: -Gordon Hayward was good. -Robert Williams was good. -The bigs weren't the problem on defense. That's about it.

     

Gordon Hayward scored a team-high 25 points, looking more like the player who made an All-Star Game appearance with the Utah Jazz in 2016-17. Robert Williams III, the No. 27 pick in 2018, finished with five points and three boards in only 11 minutes. And those bigs did prevent Embiid from having a good offensive night.

The problem was the free throws. As Smith noted, the Celtics could have been winning in the second half if not for the rough evening from the charity stripe:

Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA

The missed FTs continue. 11-21. If Boston just shot it like they normally do, they'd be winning this game.

 

The Celtics' season didn't start as they hoped, but they're highly unlikely to shoot as poorly as they did Wednesday on a consistent basis this year.

       

What's Next?

Boston will return home to face the Toronto Raptors on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. The 76ers will hit the road for Detroit on Saturday at 7 p.m.

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