The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The banged-up Celtics aren’t as talented as the Sixers. They didn’t need to be in Game 1.

Jayson Tatum celebrates after hitting a three-pointer. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

No Kyrie Irving? No Gordon Hayward? No Jaylen Brown?

No problem for the Boston Celtics.

Thanks to a barrage of three-pointers, and with an equal number of bricks and a series of unforced errors by the Philadelphia 76ers, the Celtics cruised to a 117-101 victory in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal.

The Celtics, missing arguably their three best scoring threats, went 17 for 36 from three-point range in this one, while the Sixers went just 5 for 26 from deep. That 36-point advantage was more than enough to allow Boston to earn a comfortable win despite missing so much perimeter talent (Irving and Hayward for the season, and Brown until at least Game 2 with a hamstring strain).

“My confidence in everything,” said Terry Rozier, who led the way for Boston with a game-high 29 points on 11-for-18 shooting — including 7 for 9 from three-point range. “My teammates believe in me, my coaches believe in me, and I just want to find a way to keep it going.”

The Celtics have done this over and over again this season, continuing to advance even as the injuries have added up. It seems every time Celtics Coach Brad Stevens needs to adjust his rotation to cope for someone being out, his players respond and make those watching forget anyone needed to sit in the first place.

This night was no different. Jayson Tatum added 28 points and Al Horford had 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists as Boston found a way to get the job done and take care of a Philadelphia team that had entered Monday night winners of 20 of their last 21 games.

The Sixers team that took the court Monday, however, didn’t resemble that one in the slightest. Joel Embiid was magnificent, finishing with 31 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Everyone else? Not so much.

“Defensively, offensively, this isn’t who we are,” Sixers Coach Brett Brown said. “This was a very poor game from us.”

Presumptive rookie of the year Ben Simmons finished with what looked like a good stat line — 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists — in 42 minutes. But Simmons had seven turnovers and never looked comfortable.

Robert Covington missed all six shots he took. J.J. Redick had 20 points, but went 2 for 7 from three. Dario Saric missed all four threes that he took, while Marco Belinelli — who made such a big impact off the bench in Philadelphia’s first-round victory over the Miami Heat — was a minus-23 in 28 minutes.

Philadelphia will hope for a different result Thursday night, when these teams meet again at TD Garden for Game 2 of this best-of-seven affair.

It would be interesting to be inside the mind of Sixers General Manager Bryan Colangelo right now.

Last spring, Colangelo made a bold move to jump up from the third spot in the draft to the top spot to draft Markelle Fultz with the top overall pick, sending a future first-rounder to the Boston Celtics to swap picks with them.

Boston, in turn, took Jayson Tatum — the same Jayson Tatum that has 27 points on 8-for-16 shooting in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals … against the Sixers. Fultz, meanwhile, hasn’t gotten off the bench.

That’s not to say Fultz won’t wind up being the better player. It’s also not to say that was the wrong trade at the time. But it is interesting to think about, and as these teams look like they’ll be facing each other in the playoffs for years to come, it is a decision that will always be lurking in the background whenever these teams meet.

If Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes are going to hit more threes than the Philadelphia 76ers, it is going to be tough for Philadelphia to beat the Boston Celtics.

There are a lot of stats that can be taken away from Game 1 of Celtics-Sixers so far, but the most telling one: Boston is 11 for 24 from three-point range, while Philadelphia is 3 for 17.

That’s a 24-point difference in what is a 11-point game in favor of Boston thus far. Plenty of those looks for the Sixers have been open looks, too, that just haven’t fallen.

Smart and Baynes, meanwhile, are a combined 4 for 10. Baynes made two threes all year, while Smart missed all eight threes he took in the first round before starting tonight’s game 2 for 7 from deep.

The Boston Celtics just keep on coming.

Without two injured all-stars, and without a further two injured rotation players, having played a seven-game series that ended 48 hours ago … none of it has mattered so far in Game 1, as the Celtics surged into a 56-45 halftime lead over the Philadelphia 76ers.

As they did throughout the first round, the Celtics got most of their offensive production from four players: Al Horford (16 points on 6-for-7 shooting), Terry Rozier (13), Jayson Tatum (12) and Marcus Morris (nine).

Philadelphia, meanwhile, couldn’t get out of its own way. The Sixers already have eight turnovers, which became eight Celtics points. Ben Simmons had half of those turnovers on his own.

Joel Embiid had 13 points and eight rebounds in the first half for the Sixers, who shot just 37.8 percent overall and 3 for 15 from three-point range. Boston, meanwhile, went 7 for 16 from deep.

The Sixers have more talent than the Celtics, but this looked like the first moment in these playoffs when Philadelphia really looked tight. We’ll see how the Sixers respond in the second round.

The Philadelphia 76ers spent the first round looking remarkably loose for a team with little playoff experience.

Then came the first quarter of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics, in which it appeared the Sixers were trying to make up for the poise they showed against the Miami Heat by falling apart early on against Boston.

Ben Simmons, in particular, was all over the place. He had three of Philadelphia’s four turnovers — four turnovers that turned into five Celtics points and allowed Boston to take a 25-22 lead after the first quarter.

During his between-quarters interview with TNT, Sixers Coach Brett Brown attributed Philadelphia’s slow start to the week long layoff his team had, instead of to nerves. Either way, it needs to change.

Boston, meanwhile, got 16 first quarter points from Terry Rozier (10) and Marcus Morris (six) on a combined 7-for-13 shooting. The rest of the Celtics? Nine points on 2-for-10 shooting — and that included a perfect 5 for 5 start from the foul line from Jayson Tatum.

The Philadelphia 76ers look like a team that hasn’t played in a week. The Boston Celtics look normal.

That’s the offensive breakdown of both teams early in the first quarter of Game 1 of this Eastern Conference semifinal. That wouldn’t be the case if Boston had arguably its three best scoring threats — Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown — available for this game.

They do not, though, and the results are obvious. With only one matchup — Jayson Tatum going against J.J. Redick — that Boston can actually exploit, scoring is going to be difficult in this series.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia has gotten a bunch of open looks, but has missed virtually all of them. That’s why it’s 9-8 early in the first quarter, despite the Sixers looking like the far better team.

The Boston Celtics face an uphill climb in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Philadelphia 76ers. Boston had a seven-game slugfest with the Milwaukee Bucks end 48 hours ago, and they are playing without all-stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, both of whom are out with season-ending injuries.

Things got even tougher Monday night, though, when Jaylen Brown was ruled out for Game 1 with a hamstring injury.

Brown was Boston’s second-leading scorer against the Bucks, averaging 17.9 points per game — and that includes him scoring just two points before exiting Game 7 with his injury. With Irving and Hayward sidelined, Brown had taken on some of the shot creation and scoring from the perimeter the Celtics need to survive.

But beating a Bucks team that is now in the market for a new coach and didn’t have a coherent approach to take advantage of their talent, is far different than beating a far more talented Sixers team that is equally well coached.

That’s why this series should last no more than five games, despite Philadelphia not having home court advantage. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are the two best players in this series, and the Sixers are a deep, talented team that has won 20 of its last 21 games going back to the middle of last month.

Couple that with the Celtics injuries and the strain that the last series put on them, and it’s going to be difficult — no matter how much Brad Stevens draws things up — for this to be a competitive series. If it is, the collective appreciation for Stevens and his acumen will only increase from where it is now.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry will make his return from a sprained medial collateral ligament Tuesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal.

Warriors Coach Steve Kerr confirmed Curry was probable for Game 2 after the team practiced here Monday, saying that there wouldn’t be a minutes restriction in his return and that the team would monitor his minutes based on his conditioning and rhythm.

Golden State brought Curry back quickly from a similar injury two years ago, as he returned two weeks after spraining his MCL against the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs to play in Game 3 of the Warriors’ second-round series with the Portland Trail Blazers.

This time, Curry got more than five weeks to heal from JaVale McGee falling into his leg during a game in late March — a product both of this injury being slightly more severe than that one, and the Warriors having the added luxury of the presence of Kevin Durant on their roster to help cushion the blow of losing one of the league’s most dynamic scorers.

The Warriors cruised through their first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs in five games without Curry, and then demolished the Pelicans, who were coming off an impressive sweep of the Trail Blazers in round one themselves, in Game 1 on Saturday night with Curry still sitting on the sidelines.

Given Curry won’t have a minutes limit, it seems safe to assume he’ll slide into the starting lineup in place of Nick Young, who started Game 1 as the Warriors went small — a precursor to what they would do when Curry returned. Starting small allowed the Warriors to put Andre Iguodala on Nikola Mirotic and give both Klay Thompson and Durant time on Jrue Holiday, negating two of New Orleans’ leading scorers.

That still left Draymond Green — only the league’s reigning defensive player of the year — to guard New Orleans star Anthony Davis, a task which Green responded to by putting up a triple-double.

Monday’s schedule:

  • Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics, 8 p.m., TNT (series tied 0-0)

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The Sixers are flying high in the playoffs and, thanks to Joel Embiid, so is Kevin Hart

Russell Westbrook and the Thunder don’t appear to have any idea how to beat the Jazz

Why is there a snake on the Philadelphia 76ers’ court?

Shining a spotlight on the 2018 NBA playoffs underachievers

John Wall has regained point god form, and that’s just what the Wizards need

It turns out this year might not be so different for the Raptors after all

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