Sixers find out again just how far they must go to reach Celtics' level



Don’t tell Joel Embiid you’re not supposed to make snap judgments after one game.

“JJ (Redick) mentioned it earlier, this is not a rivalry,” Embiid said to reporters after the Sixers’ 105-87 season-opening loss to the Boston Celtics (see observations). “I don’t know our record against them but it’s pretty bad. They always kick our ass.”

Embiid’s right. This is a far cry from the early 1980s when the Sixers’ Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks and Moses Malone were trading NBA Finals appearances with the Celtics’ Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish 

These days, the Sixers get a cold shiver down their spine at the mere sight of the green monsters from Boston. The Sixers dropped nine of the 11 total meetings between the storied franchises last season and opened the 2018-19 campaign by getting blitzed during the second half of the latest defeat.

“I take it personal, especially when you come into the game and you have the whole world watching, national television and then we come and we play that bad,” Embiid said.

Playing poorly isn’t the most egregious thing. After all, you expect some level of sloppiness in the first game of a new season for both teams.

But it was the specific mistakes the Sixers made that really stood out as the performance looked like a replay of practically every loss to the C’s from a season ago.

The Sixers’ turnovers (16) were mostly unforced. Their primary long-range shooters — JJ Redick and Robert Covington — couldn’t get on track (combined 4 for 15 from three-point range).

Most importantly, the defense the Sixers spent all summer revamping was carved up when it mattered most and that was with Kyrie Irving shooting a miserable 2 of 14 from the floor.

“I think what they have are playmakers, shot takers. They score the ball,” head coach Brett Brown said. “So most of the schemes you end up in you’re challenged a little bit.”

For the Sixers, that challenge has appeared insurmountable. Still, they’re not ready to concede anything after Game No. 1.

“We’ve just got to keep working together,” Embiid said. “A lot of changes. We know we have the potential to get to where we want to and that’s the NBA Finals, but for that we’ve got to make the playoffs first. It’s going to be a long road, but I’m excited for the future.”

The Sixers can only keep selling that potential for so long. At some point, they’re going to have to prove it on the court against the Celtics.

There are 81 regular-season games left over the course of six months, but the clock is already counting down.

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