Sixers: Good, bad, ugly from opening night loss to Celtics

James Harden, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
James Harden, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

Excitement is building in the Philly sports world. The Eagles are undefeated and the Phillies are mere wins away from a potential World Series appearance. Naturally, the Sixers were able to poor some cold water on the city-wide celebration. An opening night bout with the vaunted Boston Celtics had many fans excited, but it ended in defeat: 126-117. The final score suggests a closer contest than the one we saw play out.

It was tied at halftime. The vibes were good. Philly ended the second quarter on a tear, showcasing the immense offensive potential of this team. And then the second half came and Boston ran wild.

While it’s best to avoid broad generalizations and sweeping overstatements after one game, we did learn a fair amount. The Celtics are arguably the best team in basketball. If Philly wants to reach the promised land, that’s a team they have to beat.

Let’s start with positive takeaways…

Good elements of Sixers’ loss to Celtics

  • James Harden is back, baby! 

It’s best not to get carried away. Harden didn’t have the same rumbling dynamism we saw in his peak Houston days, but he looked significantly better than the James Harden we were treated to last season. He finished the game with 35 points on 14 shots, going 12-for-12 at the free throw line and dropping eight boards plus eight assists to bolster his line.

If Harden can return to full-blown offensive stardom, the Sixers’ chances are pretty good. It’s game one, and it’s fair to be concerned about Harden’s season-long durability, but the initial signs are promising.

  • Maxey’s second-half heroics 

It was inevitably fruitless, but Tyrese Maxey once again played the hero in the second half. He knifes to the rim with such ease — it’s rather beautiful to behold. The offense leaned heavily on Embiid and Harden in this one, but Maxey gave them a massive spark when they most needed it. The Sixers have the distinct challenge of feeding three star-level offensive players, but they can’t let Maxey fall by the wayside.

  • P.J. Tucker doing P.J. Tucker things

Say what you will about the Sixers’ defense as a whole, but P.J. Tucker was great. He credibly resisted Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, both of whom buried more than their fair share of absurd shots. He also did the little P.J. Tucker things we will collectively come to love: crash the glass, set rock-solid screens, move without the ball, communicate on defense. He has great chemistry with James Harden, which should come as no surprise.