Joel Embiid led the Philadelphia 76ers have a rare opportunity to take a 2-0 Eastern Conference semifinal advantage against the Boston Celtics for the first time in 38 seasons. The Sixers will face the Celtics on Wednesday night at TD Garden, hoping to build on their 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven second-round series. A win in Game 2 would give the Sixers a commanding advantage heading back home. However, the team knows that they cannot afford to be complacent in a hostile environment.
“We got to just win,” said coach Doc Rivers. “I don’t think about the 1-0. That’s over, at least for me, and that’s with our players. We got to focus on tomorrow. What does 1-0 get you? It gets you 1-0, I guess. But other than that, we have to be ready.”
The Celtics are expected to make adjustments after James Harden torched them with a game-high 45 points in Game 1, tying a postseason career-high with seven three-pointers. Despite the win, the Sixers know that the Celtics will come out strong in Game 2.
“We got to believe that they are going to play better,” Rivers said. “And I talk about that all the time. The golf Tiger Woods thing. Like I expect them to play great and expect to win, yourself. That’s what we talk about every day.”
The Celtics also want to improve their late-game execution and manage the game better throughout. Boston had a 62-50 advantage with 3 minutes, 31 seconds before intermission in Game 1, but the Sixers closed out the half with a 13-4 run to cut the lead to three points.
“And obviously our late-game execution can get better when they are switching in different coverages and just waiting for us,” said Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla. “I think it’s just honing in on what we are great at, and working to do it. At the same time on the defensive end, having a clear, concise decision of, is this what we’re living with and what we’re going to take away and clean up some areas where we got to get more physical.”
The Sixers are not concerned about the absence of center Joel Embiid, who is sidelined with a sprained right knee. The team is 13-5 this season in games he’s missed and takes pride in playing without him.
“I think we take pride in playing without the big fella, as good as he is,” said P.J. Tucker. “I think it gives [others] an opportunity to step up and play. James can kind of do his thing. Tyrese [Maxey] is obviously really good. … Like everybody, literally, takes a little step up and [takes advantage of] that when he’s out. So it’s like a pride thing for us.”
The Sixers will try to build on their Game 1 victory and take a commanding lead in the series, hoping to replicate their success in the 1985 conference semifinals when they opened a second-round series with a 2-0 lead and ended up sweeping the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Process is Complete: Joel Embiid Wins 2022-23 NBA MVP Award
Joel Embiid, center for the Philadelphia 76ers, has won the NBA MVP trophy for the first time. The 29-year-old from Cameroon averaged 33.1 points per game, winning his second consecutive scoring title, as well as 10.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. He is the first 76er to win league MVP since Allen Iverson in 2001 and the fourth player in the team’s history, joining Julius Erving, Moses Malone, and Wilt Chamberlain.
Embiid has been sidelined with a sprained right knee that caused him to miss one game of the playoff sweep against Brooklyn and the opening game of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Boston. Embiid received 73 first-place votes, while Nikola Jokic, the two-time winner, received 15 first-place votes, and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks received 12. Embiid is also the first international player to win the NBA scoring title twice.