The Sixers took the Nov. 8 matchup with Boston by a score of 106-103 while they dropped the matchup on Wednesday 117-107. Both teams were banged up with the Cs missing Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis while the Sixers were missing Kelly Oubre Jr. and Nic Batum.
These early matchups with the Celtics can teach the Sixers some important lessons. Boston found a way to neutralize Philadelphia in both games. On the season, the Sixers have averaged 119.9 points per game and the Celtics held them way below their averages in both matchups thus far.
“We did a lot of things that were successful, and we did some things that weren’t successful,” said Tyrese Maxey. “We can find out who’s where, what groups go good with–you know what I’m saying? Kind of experiment on some things. I think we did a good job.”
The Celtics have continued to find a way to bother Maxey a bit. On the season, Maxey is shooting 48.6% and averaging 27.6 points, but in the two games against Boston, those numbers are down to 40.5% shooting and 22.5 points.
Then, there’s Joel Embiid. The big fella was a minus-25 on Wednesday. It’s the sixth time in his career that he has been a minus-25 or worse in a game. Three of those six times have come against the Celtics.
Embiid had a bad turnover late with Philadelphia down by one. It led to Jayson Tatum converting an And-1 on the other end to give the Celtics some cushion when closing the game out. That’s another lesson for Embiid to learn.
“I think the last two games, we struggled,” said Embiid. “I had a turnover that led to an And-1 so that was bad on my part and then execution down the stretch, especially with a bunch of different schemes, whether it was them trapping me or playing the pick-and-roll with Tyrese where we don’t have an angle of passing.”
The Sixers are still working on growing and coming together as a team. Wednesday was only game 11 on the season and there are still 71 of these to go. Maxey and Embiid need to continue to grow from this.
“I told him he’s just got to be more aggressive,” Embiid added. “Especially with the way teams are playing, they’re taking away the pocket pass so that means it’s time for him to just be aggressive and take advantage of that type of coverage if they’re gonna play like that and not leave me, but we will be fine.”
With that being said, the Sixers are 8-3 and have been terrific on both ends of the floor. There is no need to hit the panic button in November.
“The last few games have been bad, that doesn’t represent us,” Embiid finished. “We’re better than that. I know I’m better than that. Not everyone is perfect. Can’t have great games all the time. So we’ll just learn from it and get better.”