Jayson Tatum Dominant, Celtics Cruise to 2-0 Series Lead vs. Joel Embiid, 76ers

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2020

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics celebrates a three-point shot against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

The Boston Celtics sure look like a team set to cruise to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Celtics absolutely smashed the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night 128-101, shooting 19-of-43 from three and taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the series. That spoiled a strong night from Philadelphia center Joel Embiid, who came out of the gate aggressively but wasn't able to carry the Sixers to a much-needed win.

While Boston's core group of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker handled business without the injured Gordon Hayward, Philly didn't get enough from Tobias Harris and Al Horford with superstar Ben Simmons sidelined.

The Sixers are now in serious jeopardy of an early playoff exit, which will call into question whether head coach Brett Brown has a future with the team. It could also lead to serious roster changes as the Sixers try yet again to find the winning formula around Embiid and Simmons.

The series isn't over yet. But Philly needs to figure things out, and fast, against a talented Boston team that looks like a real contender thus far this postseason.


Key Stats

Jayson Tatum, BOS: 33 points, five rebounds, five assists, 8-of-12 from three

Kemba Walker, BOS: 22 points

Jaylen Brown, BOS: 20 points, five rebounds

Joel Embiid, PHL: 34 points, 10 rebounds, one block

Josh Richardson, PHL: 18 points

Shake Milton, PHL: 14 points, four assists


Tatum, Walker and Brown Were Fantastic

For all of the storylines about Philly's angst after this game, the Celtics were damn good Wednesday. And it was their Big Three of Tatum, Walker and Brown leading the way.

Tatum was cooking early and couldn't seem to miss from three.


Clock winding down. Tough contest. Just inside the logo. Doesn't matter for Jayson Tatum. 🤯 #NBAPlayoffs on TNT https://t.co/bSeXYZOhZv


The @celtics offense is humming! 📺: @NBAonTNT https://t.co/cwr1v9OJCO


Jayson Tatum. HEATING UP. 🔥 He's 5-6 from 3... 12-0 @celtics run on TNT. #WholeNewGame #NBAPlayoffs https://t.co/FGNrZz8QXF

Walker roasted the Sixers in the pick-and-roll.


Jayson Tatum (18 PTS) and Kemba Walker (15 PTS) have the @celtics up at the half of Game 2 on TNT! ☘️☘️ #NBAPlayoffs #WholeNewGame https://t.co/qHHxusllKm

And Brown was smooth and steady throughout.


🌀 JAYLEN BROWN 🌀 #NBAPlayoffs on TNT https://t.co/zJEkgryfz8

Without Simmons in play, Boston's top three is better than Philly's top three. That much has become evident after two games.


Embiid Needs Help

OK, now to the angst.

The Sixers are a strangely built team. Horford, who signed for four years and $109 million this offseason, came off the bench in Game 2 and scored just four points, another reminder that he's a terrible fit next to Embiid. Harris, who signed a five-year, $180 million extension, finished with 13 points on 4-of-15 shooting as Philly's second option on offense. That's not nearly good enough.

Paul Hudrick @PaulHudrick

This has Game 4 against Toronto vibes for Tobias Harris. Can’t even make his wide open looks.

Chris Vernon @ChrisVernonShow

Reminder that the 3 players in NBA w/ the most guaranteed money left on their contracts are 1) Damian Lillard 2) Klay Thompson and.... 3) Tobias Harris https://t.co/wJ3XnacO5d

Michael Lee @MrMichaelLee

Ill fit? Benching? What Al Horford really has to be upset about this season in Philly has to be leaving a disappointing team with funky chemistry for a more disappointing team with funkier chemistry & realizing the squad you left behind is closer to that elusive 💍 without you

Not to mention that the Sixers don't have guards capable of consistently creating their own shot. Or that a team built on defense seemed incapable of defending a high pick-and-roll for three quarters and was consistently roasted by Boston's perimeter defenders in Game 2.

Mike O'Connor @MOConnor_NBA

The 2019-20 Sixers are a group of 15 incredibly likable human beings who should be legally banned from ever playing basketball together again.

Chris Mannix @SIChrisMannix

Sixers aren't running much of anything offensively. Just running up, passing a couple of times and going to the rim.

Kevin O'Connor @KevinOConnorNBA

Philly's offense too often makes simple things look so freaking hard. Good example here: Josh Richardson can't complete a basic entry pass. Noodle arms it without accuracy. I can't imagine how pissed off Joel Embiid must get when stuff like this happens https://t.co/8I7g6qsvSc

Jon Johnson @jonjohnsonwip

Embiid trying to do everything. Too many Sixers just standing around. Too many lazy passes. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Embiid did what he could against Boston offensively, carrying that load, but even his defense was suspect Wednesday. And Philly's offense outside of Embiid post-ups was wonky, at best, as it has been for much of the season. Outside of moments like the one below, Philly's offense wasn't a threat.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Embiid’s footwork is filthy 😳 https://t.co/YGwBYJC8J1

Having Simmons would help on defense and in transition, no doubt. But given how Philadelphia has looked offensively, even having Simmons and his hesitation to shoot from the perimeter would leave the Sixers with just as many questions as answers. The Sixers look like a team that could get swept unless somebody other than Embiid steps up in a big way.


What's Next?

The series continues with Friday's Game 3 at 6:30 p.m. ET on TNT.