The Boston-Philadelphia series has a nice Duke flavor with JJ Redick playing for the Sixers and Jayson Tatum for the Celtics.
So far, Tatum has the upper hand as Boston is up 2-0 in the series.
Tatum hit a big dunk late then iced the game from the free throw line with three free throws in the last 3.4 seconds to put the game out of reach.
He finished with 21 points on 7-14 from the floor.
Redick finished with 23 points on 9-17 and 5-9 from three point range.
In a sense, the star of the game though was neither former Blue Devil but Boston coach Brad Stevens.
Philadelphia has a wonderful core to build on and they should be good for a long time. The Process was ultimately trusted and ultimately it delivered.
However, is it just half the game? Why doesn’t Philly play defense?
That’s the difference in this series. Boston is playing without Kyrie Irving. They’ve been without Gordon Hayward since the first quarter of the first game of the season.
Marcus Smart has a thumb injury. Daniel Theis is out for the rest of the playoffs. Shane Larkin is on restricted minutes due to a knee problem. Jaylen Brown is just now back from a hamstring injury and can’t be 100%.
And even during the course of this game you could see guys getting hammered.
None of it has mattered because Boston’s defense has been vastly superior to Philly’s. This is an ancient rivalry and that’s been the story from Day 1 between these teams. Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, Dennis Johnson, Kevin Garnett: Boston means D.
They demonstrated this tradition to Philly’s young star Ben Simmons, who was held to one point.
Boston is only up 2-0 and they’re missing a lot, but the way this team is playing you wouldn't want to bet against them.
By the way there is one more Duke connection in this game: former Blue Devil Semi Ojeleye is a Celtic too.
He’s also part of an unpleasant story where his mother says Coach K berated her in his office to the point where she cried.
We don’t wish to contest her account but after we read it we realized that something was missing and that’s whatever angered Krzyzewski. It would be useful to know the whole story.
Semi’s father talked to Nate James and says he said this: “First he said the only way Semi was going to play at Duke was if someone else got hurt. Then he said Semi didn’t work on his game, or do what they told him to do. He didn’t ask the coaches what he had to do to get better.”
We certainly don’t have any insights on that conversation but we can tell you that we heard similar things before and after Semi left, particularly about defense (which may explain the alleged comment about someone being injured).
We do think that Duke fans in general were pleased by his success at SMU and that he’s achieved his NBA dream. He may not have given exactly what the coaches wanted but he’s hardly the first kid to be criticized for that. He’s a smart, decent guy and whatever went wrong at Duke, he obviously put things in order and has done very well. SMU fans, Duke fans and Boston fans should all be thrilled with how well he’s turned out.
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