Jayson Tatum Drops 32 to Lead Celtics to Win over Joel Embiid, 76ers in Game 1

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2020

Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum (0) shoots as Philadelphia 76ers' Shake Milton (18) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Ashley Landis/Associated Press

The Boston Celtics wasted no time seizing control of their first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Boston won Monday's Game 1 at Walt Disney World Resort 109-101 and has a 1-0 lead over its Eastern Conference rival after dropping three of four regular-season matchups against the 76ers.

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum led the way for the victors by combining for 61 points, while Joel Embiid spearheaded the effort for a Philadelphia team that is playing without the injured Ben Simmons.


Notable Player Stats

  • Jayson Tatum, F, BOS: 32 PTS, 13 REB, 3 BLK, 10-of-21 FG, 2-of-5 3PT
  • Jaylen Brown, G, BOS: 29 PTS, 6 REB, 4 AST, 3 STL, 9-of-16 FG, 5-of-8 3PT
  • Kemba Walker, G, BOS: 19 PTS, 5 AST, 7-of-16 FG
  • Joel Embiid, C, PHI: 26 PTS, 16 REB, 2 STL, 8-of-15 FG
  • Josh Richardson, G, PHI: 18 PTS, 6 REB, 7-of-17 FG, 3-of-9 3PT
  • Tobias Harris, F, PHI: 15 PTS, 8 AST, 8 REB, 6-of-15 FG


Boston's Dominant Duo Leads the Way

Much of the narratives around this season have focused on the dynamic duos in the Western Conference with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, and Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, among others.

Not every impressive duo plays in the West.

Tatum and Brown immediately went to work with the former scoring 21 points in the first half alone and the latter drilling multiple three-pointers whenever Philadelphia gave him a sliver of space.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Jayson Tatum's 21 1st half points are the most by a @celtics player in a playoff half since 2017 (Avery Bradley in Game 5 of the 2nd round vs the Wizards). https://t.co/tqcslFOPyc

Boston Celtics @celtics

Fans: "Ok but can you do it with a spin?" JT: https://t.co/hRpjWExZrJ

Boston Celtics @celtics

🗣️ AND-ONE https://t.co/9EUMoNEsFc

Boston Celtics @celtics

Jay Smooth to the hoop https://t.co/HDLJAdc7k1


Tatum goes to work early in the 3rd! #NBAPlayoffs on ESPN https://t.co/yyCY8vEofz

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Tatum not playing around in the first half 😤 21 PTS (15 PTS in 2Q) 7-13 FG 8 REBS https://t.co/M4LhRaaar0

Boston Celtics @celtics

JAYLEN BROWN 🔥🔥🔥🔥 https://t.co/yvQ0UuQMfL

Tatum also helped the frontcourt battle Embiid for rebounds all while mixing in an array of floaters, mid-range jumpers, aggressive drives and key three-pointers. He also played solid defense, helping the Celtics force 18 turnovers.

There was a temporary scare when Brown limped off the floor in the third quarter, but he returned and took over for stretches in the fourth quarter with a three to cut a six-point deficit in half and another to tie the game before Boston took the lead.

In fact, Brown scored 15 points in the fourth quarter alone, taking some of the pressure off Tatum and helping lead the Celtics to a critical win to open the series. Their combined play will be even more important if Gordon Hayward, who left in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury, misses any time.


76ers Show They are More Than Embiid in This Series

With Simmons out, logic dictated that Philadelphia would run its offense through Embiid in this series.

After all, Daniel Theis, Robert Williams III and Enes Kanter are not exactly an all-world group of bigs engineered to stop someone of Embiid's caliber, and the Celtics no longer have Al Horford to guard Philly's star.

It appeared as if it were going to be Embiid-or-bust when he made all five of his field goals, including a step-back three, and exploded for 11 quick points in the first quarter. However, the Celtics adjusted with double-teams and forced a number of turnovers during the middle portion of the game as the 76ers struggled to get the ball back into the post.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

7′ 0″ with a step-back 💥 (via @NBCSPhilly) https://t.co/a4GFVsRPgv

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Embiid to the rim 🔨 (via @sixers) https://t.co/HlfJN4bpF0

Philadelphia 76ers @sixers

@Al_Horford https://t.co/tm5uHsRNZU

Rather than folding, Philadelphia responded with a 13-0 run to end the third quarter to take the lead all with Embiid on the bench.

Horford did work on the blocks, Tobias Harris facilitated and scored, Shake Milton found his touch from deep and Josh Richardson scored inside the lane and played impressive defense. It set the stage for Embiid to return for the fourth, which he opened with a jumper and assist on a Matisse Thybulle dunk.

It is surely discouraging for the 76ers that they were unable to win a game they held a six-point lead in during the fourth quarter, but they at least know the role players can go on runs of their own without Embiid carrying the entire team.


What's Next?

Game 2 of the series is Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET.