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BOSTON — The Boston Celtics have spent the past 48 hours feeling “angry and pissed,” according to coach Joe Mazzulla, after the way they dropped Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers at home. So from the opening minutes of Game 2 on Wednesday night, Celtics guard Jaylen Brown was determined to set a different tone for the rest of the team.
Brown knocked down a 3-pointer on Boston’s first offensive possession of the game, responding to an opening bucket from Tobias Harris, then picked up James Harden from when the Sixers invaded the ball to defend it all over the court .
It all led to a dominating effort from the Celtics, who responded with a 121-87 win over the Sixers in Game 2. Boston’s 34-point victory tied for the third-largest margin of victory in a playoff game. in franchise history, handed the Sixers their first loss of this playoff series and tied the series 1-1. Game 3 is Friday night in Philadelphia.
“We just have to be more proud of ourselves,” Brown said after the game. “I felt like we underperformed last game, and we wanted to go out and play to the best of our abilities. That’s what we did.”
Brown led all scorers with a game-high 25 points and helped take over from Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who played just 19 minutes and scored seven points after spending most of the game in tight spots. faults. It’s Boston’s biggest margin of victory in any game in which Tatum has been held to less than 10 points.
“Our strength is our depth,” said Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon, who tied a playoff record with six 3-pointers off the bench and finished with 23 points. “The way the roster is built, we have guys like me, Derrick (White), Grant (Williams) playing behind our two superstars and ready to (contribute) when we can.”
Meanwhile, the Celtics kept the intensity on the defensive side up all night. They held Harden to 12 points after his 45-point outburst in Game 1 and kept returning and newly minted NBA MVP Joel Embiid to just 15 points.
“We have to take our hats off to (Brown), he threw all that momentum for us,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “We just had to follow his example. When you have one of your best players setting the tone like that, it’s hard for you not to follow. Our defense slipped, and we wanted to get out and get back to what we do better.”
Boston’s win on Wednesday marks the 15th straight time a team that dropped Game 1 of a home playoff series has bounced back to win Game 2.
After criticizing their own defensive effort early in the series, the Celtics turned up the intensity on the Sixers on Wednesday night. Harden shot 2 for 14 from the field (0 for 6 of 3) to finish with the worst field goal percentage after a 45-point game in NBA playoff history.
The Celtics tested Embiid in his first game after a knee injury, putting him in space and attacking him in the pick-and-roll to see how much running he could handle. Embiid went 4 for 9 from the field, despite finishing with five blocks.
Meanwhile, after attempting a season-high 26 3-pointers in Game 1, the Celtics made 20 of their 51 3-pointers in that game, including a seven-point 3-point shootout during the third quarter that pushed the game out of reach. Boston outscored the Sixers 35-16 in the third quarter, allowing Tatum and Brown to rest for the final period as the Celtics cruised to victory.
“You never want to come into a game where you feel like you’ve let it down,” Celtics forward Grant Williams said. “We did that too much last year, we did that too much this year. It definitely gives you some advantage. But now it’s a question of whether you can do the same next game.
“Does that advantage stay or does it go away because now all of a sudden you’ve gained one and now you let off the throttle. You can’t do that. For us, it it’s about maintaining the same physicality, that same intensity, that same approach in the game. It will be vital in this series. We can’t be the first to break.