The Philadelphia 76ers revamped their roster at the trade deadline, bringing in Tobias Harris to upgrade their already fearsome starting lineup, and adding some veteran bench depth in Mike Scott, Jonathon Simmons, and Boban Marjanovic. The new-look Philadelphia team got off to a roaring start in its first two games against the Nuggets and the Lakers, but when it came time to face their old nemesis, the Boston Celtics, the Sixers once again fell flat on their faces, losing by three at home.
Boston has now won 10 of its last 12 games against Philadelphia, including a five-game gentleman’s sweep in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season when the Celtics were without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and an opening night shellacking of the Sixers. Philadelphia may have hoped that it had evened the playing field at the trade deadline, but Tuesday’s defeat proved that the Celtics still have the upper hand for now.
It may not matter who suits up for Philadelphia, but the key for Boston has been Al Horford, who has been adept at shutting down Joel Embiid. The Sixers’ All-Star center has an offensive rating of 110.6 this season; that drops to 100 when he is playing the Celtics. Per Tomasz Kordylewski, Embiid scored 15 points on 6-for-17 shooting on the 55 possessions he was defended by Horford Tuesday.
Embiid is generally unwilling to give his defenders any credit, and instead put the game’s referees on blast, but the damage dates back further than last night. In the last eight times these two teams have matched up, Embiid has scored 83 points on 80 shot attempts against Horford. Despite giving up five inches on Embiid, Horford has the strength and positional acuity to frustrate Embiid.