The Boston Celtics may have lost Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against a Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers team, but they made up for it in a big way in their Game 2 victory May 3, even with the MVP back on the hardwood.
Even though Embiid wasn’t at full strength, his presence was felt, with the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown using a straightforward three-word descriptor: “They were themselves.”
Embiid, who played through an LCL sprain, scored 15 points and had 3 rebounds and 5 blocks, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Celtics from beating the Sixers 121-87 to even their best-of-seven series 1-1.
“I think they came out [and] gave us a good punch in the first and second quarter,” Brown told reporters. “Embiid, despite him having some knee issues, he still had four or five blocked shots so he looked good to me.”
It was Embiid’s first game since April 20, and he was on a minutes restriction, playing only 26:37, down from his regular-season average of almost 35 minutes a game.
CBS Sports’ James Herbert questioned the wisdom of bringing back Embiid before he was 100%.
“Given that Philadelphia had taken a 1-0 lead without him, it is fair to wonder if Embiiid should have waited to come back until Game 3 on Friday,” Herbert wrote. “The way he sees it, though, he needed to get this first one over with.”
Al Horford Praises Jaylen Brown’s Efforts in Game 2
Though the Game 2 victory was an all-around team effort, the Celtics’ Al Horford said it was Brown who led the charge.
During a postgame interview with NBC Sports Boston, Horford heaped praise on Brown, calling his performance “as good a game as I’ve ever seen.”
Logging 30 minutes, Brown finished with 25 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals while shooting 52.9% from the field and 50.0% from deep.
“He took the challenge. He really led us. … He just set the tone,” Horford said. “It’s honestly as good a game as I’ve ever seen him play. He was so locked in. He was so poised on the defensive end with his presence and then on offense just being solid and continuing to make plays. He was the difference-maker for us,” Al Horford said on Jaylen Brown’s performance in Game 2.
Marcus Smart Provides Injury Update Following Celtics Win
After playing 27 grueling minutes, point guard Marcus Smart indicated that he was beat up.
“I’m sore as s***. I’m really sore. But I’ll be OK,” Smart told reporters, pointing to his lip, shoulder and chest. Going into the game, he had been listed as questionable with a chest contusion. He said he was on an anti-inflammatory to deal with the soreness, but, “I pride myself on being a warrior.”
Smart, a nine-year veteran, didn’t seem to be impacted by soreness, finishing with 15 points on 50.0% shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and a block.
According to The Athletic’s Jared Weiss, Smart actually pushed the pace, setting the tone for what Weiss called an “angry” Celtics team after the Game 1 loss.
“Brown and [Jayson] Tatum may be the stars, but Smart is this team’s heartbeat,” Weiss wrote. “He is the highest ideal of who they want to be, an entirely unpredictable playmaker on both ends who looks to create defining moments throughout the game.”
The Celtics and Sixers will play Game 3 in Philadelphia on May 5.