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Tatum, Brown Help C's Overcome Off Night To Take 1-0 Series Lead

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

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BOSTON – The Boston Celtics deposited Game 1 of their playoff series against Philadelphia into the win column Monday night despite playing well below their standards.

As Kemba Walker phrased it after the win, “We can play a lot better.”

Statistically speaking, that’s a an absolute fact – and a dangerous one at that for the opposing 76ers.

There is a long list of areas in which the Celtics can improve moving forward. That’s not to say that they didn’t deserve to win Monday night – they most certainly did – but they acknowledged that they must play at their accustomed level if they are to reach the heights they seek during this postseason.

“If we continue to play basketball the way we know how to play basketball,” said Jaylen Brown, “we could be here for a while.”

At the top of the list of improvements for Boston is its ability to play with and maintain a lead. The C’s struggled to do so at times during their eight seeding games and that trend bled into Monday night.

Boston led for the majority of the second half and pulled ahead by 11 points midway through the third quarter. Less than five minutes later, however, it had fallen behind and eventually trailed 79-75 heading into the final period.

A combination of poor ball movement and shot selection, poor execution and subpar defense allowed the Sixers to get back into the game.

“We need to keep going, no matter good or bad,” Brad Stevens said of his team’s tendency to give up leads. “I’m really happy with the way we responded when we were down, but there were three or four times when we were up 10 or 11, and it got cut to three or four. We’ve got to be better in that.”

While the C’s would have preferred to have maintained their lead and coasted to a victory, they’re proud of the fact that they were able to overcome adversity and win the contest. Stevens and multiple players, including Brown, alluded to that fact following the game.

“You get hit with adversity, you’ve got to respond,” Brown said. “You can’t look around. You’ve got to get up and fight. So that’s what we did when they went on that run: we fought, and we ended up winning the game.”

This contest was all about fighting through adversity, because the C’s didn’t have their A-game from the very start.

Boston fell behind out of the gates and shot just 42.2 percent from the field and 32.3 percent from 3-point range on the night. Those percentages fall well below their season averages of 46.1 percent and 34.5 percent, respectively.

Additionally, at the other end of the court, the Celtics weren’t quite as sharp defensively as they typically are. They allowed Philadelphia to shoot 46.3 percent from the field, which is a bump above their opponents’ season average of 44.1 percent shooting.

Lastly, from an individual perspective, Boston can expect that Marcus Smart will provide much more of a statistical punch than he did during Game 1. Smart scored just two points during Monday’s contest while contributing one rebound, one assist and two steals.

So how exactly did the Celtics come out on top when they struggled to play with a lead, when they shot and defended below their standards, and when they received a subpar statistical night from their sixth man? The answer can be summed up in two jays: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

The young duo combined for 61 points, 19 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocked shots on the night. They became the first pair of Celtics aged 23 or younger to score 25 or more points in the same playoff game.

As a point of emphasis, that’s in the history of the most historic franchise in the sport of basketball. That’s a pretty big deal.

Tatum got things started for Boston by scoring 21 points during the first half, and Brown took the C’s home by scoring 15 of his own during the fourth quarter. The two young wings were the two buoys which kept Boston afloat throughout a challenging night.

“Those two dudes are super-special talents. They showed it today,” said Walker, who himself scored 11 points during the fourth period. “Every big moment, they made big plays. Whenever we needed a big play, they made it.”

They are the reason why Boston was able to overcome a night during which they played below their standards and still take a 1-0 series lead. The promising news for the C’s, and the bad news for Philadelphia, is that they’re confident that they’re only going to improve as this series and the postseason wear on.

“The more we watch film,” Brown said definitively, “the better we’re going to get.”