On a night when Jayson Tatum struggled with foul trouble and finished with just seven points, the Boston Celtics still managed to pull off an impressive 121-87 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals match-up. With the win, the Celtics and Sixers are now tied 1-1 as the series shifts to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4.
The four-time NBA All-Star Tatum made only one of his seven field goal attempts over the evening, but it did not matter for Boston. While it was Jaylen Brown who led the team with 25 points, three rebounds, four assists, and two steals, the biggest difference maker for them in the win was reserve guard Malcolm Brogdon.
Brogdon, who was just crowned this season’s NBA Sixth Man of the Year two weeks ago, provided an invaluable spark off the bench yet again for the Celtics.
The 30-year-old guard helped Boston maintain the early momentum that they gathered from Brown’s 13-point opening quarter as he scored 10 points during his first stint on the floor in the first half. He then followed it up in the third quarter with three three-pointers in less than 100 seconds that helped cap off a dominant period for the Celtics where they turned a 10-point halftime lead into a 27-point advantage that proved to be insurmountable.
The 36th overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft wound up hitting six three-pointers en route to tallying 23 points, six rebounds, two assists, one block, and an impressive zero turnovers. Brogdon’s strong performance helped Boston avoid a 2-0 hole in the series and also soured the return of the Sixers’ star center Joel Embiid who was crowned the NBA Most Valuable Player for the first time in his career a day prior.
It was not the first time that Brogdon spoiled Embiid’s day though. The two were the top contenders for the NBA Rookie of the Year plum six years ago in 2017. Brogdon upended Embiid, albeit it was mostly due to the former having played significantly more games than the latter who was brought on slowly following an almost three-year bout with various injuries.
Although Brogdon’s career has distinctly paled in comparison with that of Embiid since then, he has managed to carve a niche in the NBA as a quality contributor. He is unquestionably a starting caliber guard, as proven during his last year with the Milwaukee Bucks and the succeeding three campaigns that he spent on the Indiana Pacers.
Brogdon, who joined the Celtics during the offseason, is undoubtedly overqualified for his reserve role and his presence has been a major luxury for them that has helped drive their quest to avenge last season’s NBA Finals defeat.
Last year, Tatum’s struggles from the field in the latter stages of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors spelled doom for Boston who began to crumble without their leading scorer. This year, they now have Brogdon onboard to tide them over when Tatum has his off-nights as proven in emphatic fashion in this lopsided win over Philadelphia.
After playing out of the spotlight over the first six years of his NBA career, Brogdon is finally playing on the big stage and getting the recognition that he deserves. This series is still far from over though and the Celtics will need many more performances like this from Brogdon if they are to advance past this tough Sixers team and continue on their mission to bring the NBA title back to Boston for the first time since 2008.