Terry Rozier scored 29 points on a near perfect night from beyond the arc, as the Boston Celtics defeated the 76ers 117-101 Monday night to take Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Rozier was dominant from three Monday night, connecting on seven of his nine shots from beyond the arc, en route to his team-high 29 point outing. Rozier was the only Celtic who shot well from deep, however, as Boston made 17 threes as a team, shooting just under 50 percent for the game.
The fourth-year man out of Louisville got the Celtics’ scoring started with his first made triple of the game, but it was the 76ers who jumped out to an early 7-3 lead thanks to some solid defense and a trio of baskets from three different players. As the two teams battled back and forth midway through the first quarter, the Celtics used a 7-0 run to grab the game’s first true lead, jumping out to a 21-13 advantage. Rozier added another five points over that spurt, as he finished the first quarter with ten points in the first 12 minutes of play.
Philadelphia would almost immediately respond, however, as the 76ers poured in nine of the next 11 points to close the Boston lead to one, 23-22. Ben Simmons had a hand in three consecutive buckets over that run, scoring once and assisting on the final two. He finished the evening with 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists as the rookie played nearly the entire game, sitting for just six of the 48 game minutes.
Over the final minute of play, the Celtics would score just once, on a Marcus Morris dunk, and the 76ers would fail to crack the scoreboard. After one quarter, the 76ers trailed 25-22.
After Jayson Tatum knocked down a long jumper to open the second frame, the 76ers would storm back with a 7-0 run to take a two point lead, 29-27. J.J. Redick picked up five of his 20 game points during this outburst, as the veteran sharpshooter wasn’t particularly accurate from deep in this one, knocking down just two of seven three point attempts. He did finish the evening shooting above 50 percent, 7-13, however, as he found his touch from inside the arc.
Al Horford came to life midway through the second quarter for the Celtics, as he used a personal six point run to propel the Celtics to a 10-0 spree that broke a tie and gave Boston their first double digit lead of the night, 43-33. Horford missed just twice Monday night, connecting on 10-12 from the field for 26 points. He finished the second quarter with ten of his 26 game points.
Joel Embiid had a strong offensive quarter as well in an attempt to counteract his counterpart’s success in the first half. Embiid finished the second quarter with eight points as part of his game high 31 points. Embiid shot over 50 percent from the field, connecting on 12-21, including 2-5 from deep. He added 13 rebounds for the game’s only double-double.
The ten point run earlier in the second half allowed the Celtics to simply match the 76ers for the remainder of the second quarter, as Boston bested Philadelphia by eight and took an 11 point lead, 56-45, into halftime.
As play resumed and the second half got under way, the 76ers used a 5-0 run out of the break to crawl back within six, 56-50. Boston then proceeded to grab the next six points, stretching their lead even further to 12, 62-50.
Joel Embiid was a major factor in the third quarter, picking up where he left off in the second, as he poured in another 11 points to open the second half. Despite his efforts, the 76ers were continually matched by Boston all night long, as the Celtics did not allow the 76ers to grab any kind of momentum to make a run and close the gap.The Celtics led by as many as 17 in the third quarter, but settled for a 12 point lead as the quarter came to a close, outscoring the 76ers 31-30 in the third frame. As the final quarter loomed, it was the Celtics 87-75.
The 76ers clamped down mightily on defense to open up the final frame, as the Celtics were unable to find much offensive rhythm. Philadelphia held the Celtics without a field goal for the first two and half minutes of the fourth quarter, allowing just one made free throw over that stretch. The 76ers simply didn’t take advantage of the inefficiencies to open the frame, as Philadelphia closed the gap to nine, 88-79, by scoring just four points of their own.
Both teams continued to struggle from the field, as the 76ers went on a dry spell of exactly three minutes without any points and nearly four minutes without a field goal. The two offenses hit their strides a possession later, as the buckets started falling at will. Eight consecutive possessions between the two sides ended in made first shots, as the Celtics’ lead swelled back to 13, 103-90.
The Celtics used a 10-2 run to help swell their lead to 18, 110-92, a lead that the 76ers would never be able to recover from. The 76ers scored just nine more points, compared to the the Celtics seven, as the Celtics defeated the 76ers 117-101.
The opening game victory gives the Celtics a 1-0 series advantage in the best of seven competition. Game Two will be played in Boston, Thursday night, at the TD Garden. Tip off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m., and you can catch all the action on 97.5 The Fanatic!
-By Tyler Zulli, producer and www.975thefanatic.com contributor