Al Horford – Celtics lacked defensive urgency vs. Embiid-less 76ers

The Boston Celtics lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals matchup on Monday night. Despite MVP candidate Joel Embiid being sidelined with a sprained right knee, the Sixers managed to shoot 50.6% from the field, with James Harden putting up 45 points and hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer towards the end of the game. Celtics center Al Horford admitted that the team lacked a sense of urgency on the defensive end, while Jayson Tatum agreed that the Celtics allowed the Sixers to be too comfortable and gave away too many offensive rebounds.

This is the third time the Celtics and Sixers have faced each other in the playoffs in the past six seasons, with Boston entering this series 8-1 against Philadelphia in those matchups. However, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla noted how this year’s Sixers had managed to form an identity without Embiid on the court, playing faster and spacing the floor with Harden running the offense. This was reflected in the team’s 12-5 record in games Embiid missed this season. In contrast, Boston entered Game 1 as a double-digit favorite and relied on attacking the basket and scoring in the paint, outscoring Philly 66-42 inside.

Despite Tatum’s 39 points, the difference in the fourth quarter was Harden, who outscored Tatum and Jaylen Brown 15-10. The Celtics lost the lead down the stretch following a turnover from Malcolm Brogdon on a pass thrown directly to Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey with the shot clock winding down. Although Tatum knocked down a pair of free throws on the other end, it only set the stage for Harden and the Sixers to steal Game 1 in Boston. Brogdon said that the team needs to be more ready and send a message in the next game.

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