Much was made about the difference in time off between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night. The Celtics hosted Game 1 of their semifinals series just two days after defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7, while the Sixers had five days off following a five-game series win over the Miami Heat.
“That rest versus rhythm notion is certainly true. This is the most time we’ve had off, anybody would have had off, prior to an All-Star break,” Brett Brown admitted before the game. “How we come out and squander that time off after playing in a pretty good rhythm, who knows?”
As the game played out, the Celtics seemed much more ready than the Sixers, who had the look of a team that was out of sync. Philadelphia shot the ball poorly (42.2%) and was dreadful from three (5-for-26). More alarmingly, they were a step slow defensively and allowed a Celtics team without Jaylen Brown to score 117 points.
“I never felt we were in the game,” Brown said afterward. “I never really felt it was a game.”
In recent history, rest hasn’t had much of an effect on the first game of a postseason series. Since the start of the 2013 playoffs (including this year’s three Game 1s), the team that entered with more rest between series is 10-8. The Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets both enjoyed more rest than their respective opponents, as the Sixers did, and came away with a victory this past weekend.
“We just have to play. It’s the first game, that’s why it’s a series,” Ben Simmons said. “We have time to correct our mistakes and we know where our mistakes are, that’s the frustrating part. Obviously, those few days off weren’t the best for us and it is good that we took the lesson now rather than later.”
Brown called Monday’s game one of the team’s worst defensive efforts in a while and admitted that they’ll look into using J.J. Redick as the primary defender on Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum, who scored 28 points on 16 shots. Al Horford was also left wide open on the perimeter often as Embiid worked to protect the paint.
It may have helped that the Celtics were not only at home, but had also played Saturday’s Game 7 at TD Garden as the Sixers waited to learn whether they’d be traveling to Boston or hosting the Bucks.
“It’s a great question. I don’t know,” Brad Stevens said when asked if the Celtics fed off of the energy from their Game 7 win. “I don’t think we started off the game as crisp as we ended it, but, yeah, that could be – that could certainly be a reason for whether they were a little bit rusty in Game 1 or whether we had the rhythm from Game 7. I guess if we come out here and lay an egg then it would have been, we played the other night.”