When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in the recent free agency, most people expected the Eastern Conference to have a new ruler in the 2018-19 NBA season. After LeBron’s departure, the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers emerged as the top favorites to battle for Eastern Conference supremacy. With their rosters consisting of young and promising talents, the Celtics and the Sixers are predicted to build an exciting rivalry in the East.
Fans have witnessed those teams face each other in the first day of the 2018-19 NBA season. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t seem to be a battle between the top two NBA teams in the Eastern Conference. On Tuesday night, the Celtics proved that they are the better team after a 105-87 victory over the Sixers at TD Garden. Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 23 points, nine rebounds, and three assists, while their returning superstars, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, still looked rusty only combining for 17 points.
The Celtics and the Sixers looked evenly matched earlier in the game, ending the first quarter with a score of 21-21. However, Boston started to stretch the gap in the second quarter and won the game with an 18-point lead. With the lopsided loss, Joel Embiid realized that the Sixers don’t deserve to be considered as the Celtics’ top rivals in the Eastern Conference.
“This is not a rivalry,” Embiid said, via Keith Pompey of Philly.com. “I don’t know our record against them, but it’s pretty bad. They always kick our [butts]. So this is not a rivalry.”
In their first game of the 2018-19 NBA season, Sixers rising superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both established an impressive performance on both ends of the floor. Embiid finished the game with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Simmons posted 19 points, 15 rebounds, and eight assists. Unfortunately, aside from Embiid, Simmons, and J.J. Redick, none of the other Sixers players scored double-digits on Tuesday night.
It may just be the first game of the regular season, but the Sixers must do better if they are really serious about fully dominating the Eastern Conference this season. In the last NBA Playoffs, the Celtics defeated the Sixers in just five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals despite not having Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward on their roster. Once both superstars regain their All-Star form and build a good chemistry with their young core, the Celtics are expected to be a more dangerous team in the postseason.