Not only did James Harden return to his best version in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference’s semifinal matchup between Boston and Philadelphia, now there are reports that the NBA’s new 2022/23 MVP Joel Embiid is feeling “pretty good” and might come back this Wednesday night for the second contest.
In spite of this, the Celtics feel ready to bounce back and prove why they ranked as the second best seed in the league, even over the 76ers in the East.
TONIGHT ☘️ Round 2 Game 2
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— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 3, 2023
This Tuesday, coach Joe Mazzulla told the press that “our strength is our offensive management,” even though they also possess the second-highest defensive rating (110.6) in the league. In Game 1, Philly was able to stop Celtics’ average of 42 three-point attempts per game, as they ended up hitting 10 out of their 26 shots beyond the arc.
Throughout the campaign, Boston has demonstrated to have a poor tendency of taking for granted when their opponents have lost their star player to injury. For example, the team from Massachussetts lost when Miami played without Jimmy Butler, faced the Knicks without Jalen Brunson, and even were beaten by Oklahoma City when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was out.
The Celtics squad know they’ve paid a heavy price for relaxing at the wrong moments, so with rival Embiid on court or not, they must remain focused.
“I think we expected that, guys to step up, but we still struggled with it. We just gotta be prepared,” said Celtics player Malcolm Brogdon. “Whether or not Embiid comes back, we’ve got to understand that these guys are gonna make shots, these guys are gonna play with the green light.”
As the 76ers big man was recently crowned the best player of this past regular season, every fan in Philly is crossing their fingers to hopefully see their giant perform against second-seeded Boston tonight.
“He has done some pool work and stuff,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s just not basketball. Even our guys yesterday, even though we had a whole week off from playing, I though the first five minutes we were gassed. If you don’t play playoff basketball for a week and you get in there, they’re flying and you’re exhausted.
“Whenever he does come back, he’s going to be tired. We’re going to have to monitor that as well. That’ll be a new thing.”
Philadelphia hopes to celebrate their new MVP star on court this Wednesday
Even though Philly proved they could still take on the series against the Celtics without Joel Embiid, statistically they’ve lost a lot on both ends of the court when he’s not on court.
“Joel is our guy,” Philly reserve Georges Niang expressed. “What’s understood doesn’t need to be said. … How great an impact he has on us on the court but also off the court. He has a huge heart, he’s a giving human and we’re all blessed – even you guys, the media – to have him around, because he’s a real treat.”
His coach was asked what was the recipe to provide a healthy and inspiring environment for Embiid to develop into an All-Star, the league’s two-time scoring leader, back-to-back runner up for the league’s best award, and now deservingly hold the MVP trophy.
“Starting with conditioning,” Doc Rivers explained. “The first talk we had, hey listen, if you want to be all these things we just said at the table at dinner, you can’t be that without putting an amazing amount of time on the floor.
“The second thing, forget offense, let’s go to defense. You’ve got to be a dominant fourth-quarter defender. The third thing was offensively, we have to figure out where to put you. And then the fourth thing was the go-to shot. Each year, he kind of added that. And passing was the fifth.”