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76ers vs. Celtics James Harden shines, but Joel Embiid is the Sixers' defensive tackle in NBA opening night loss to the Celtics

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The 76ers lost 126-117 to the Celtics in Boston on Tuesday night, but failed to maintain the good sporting mood in Philadelphia. Despite James Harden’s 35 points, it wasn’t enough to top off the terrible Joel Embiid performance and Jayson Tatum’s scoring.

Here are some instant takeaways from the season opener.

First half

  • It couldn’t have been a cooler start for the Sixers. Boston’s defense was definitely choking outside the door. Philly had a hard time getting shots off the field as they made a 7-on-1 start and flipped the ball three times in the first three minutes of the game. The sound on the TNT feed was ahead of the game action which was jarring.
  • Tobias Harris looked very good early on. His eight in the first quarter woke Philly in a way. Harris continued in the 3-and-D role he took on last season, protecting Jaylen Brown on the defensive side and letting the three-pointers fly fast on the offensive side.
  • James Harden had an excellent first quarter, recording 16 of Philly’s first 29 points. He fouled the patented backstop three times in the first quarter and went to the line a total of eight times in the first period.
  • Joel Embiid didn’t look very sharp out the door. Boston did a good job of knowing when to send him a doubles and making sure he wasn’t keeping the ball close to the basket. Jayson Tatum’s plea for help was particularly frustrating for the big man.
  • It was a really crazy first half for Harden, starting with 22 points and four assists on 5 of 9 innings, getting everyone talking when he put Marcus Smart out of the picture, but he barely hit the rim with three balls.
  • Just to go down and hit this as the shot clock expires after only a few positions
  • The second quarter had a completely different tone than the first as both offenses came alive. The Sixers shot 65 percent off the field in the second half and the Celtics locked the game in 63 with 71 percent shooting.

Second half

  • A very eventful start to the second half, a mess between Smart and Embiid led to a technical foul on Smart. The third quarter began to unravel for Philly. They didn’t get much on the offensive side. They looked completely still, often watching Embiid and Harden use their entire shot clock to create something. The Sixers were also very careless about basketball, doubling the Celtics in turnovers and losing 22-2 on fast break points over the course of three quarters.
  • While box scores weren’t terrible (26 points, 15 rebounds in 9-18 shots), Embiid’s performance left much to be desired. He looked controlled on both sides in a split second, missing some rotations, leading to easy Celtics baskets. While this may cause some Sixers fans to panic, keep in mind that he looked similarly lethargic at the season opener in New Orleans last year.
  • Philly struggled all night to get control of Jayson Tatum, but his third quarter was particularly rebound. 17 of 35 entered the frame. Jaylen Brown finished the game with 35 points on his own as the Sixers kept their finger on the pulse of both Jays.
  • With the start of the fourth quarter, the Sixers finally brought Tyrese Maxey into the game, but it was too little, too late. At this point, they couldn’t just take the baskets 10 back and make a serious fall ahead.

You can listen to Jackson Frank and Jas Kang’s post-game podcast below: