Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown are ready to go: 9 takeaways from Celtics vs. 76ers

Tatum and Brown combined for 70 efficient points in an impressive win.

Celtics 76ers
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum shoots over Philadelphia 76ers center Montrezl Harrell. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

The Celtics started their 2022-23 season with an impressive 126-117 victory over the 76ers on Tuesday.

Here are the takeaways.

1. Maybe the most encouraging takeaway for the Celtics on Tuesday was the performance of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. In the third quarter, Tatum scored in every conceivable way — getting out in transition (and taking advantage of the NBA’s new take-foul rules), burying 3-pointers off the bounce and getting to the rim and to the line. Tatum finished with 35 points on 13-for-20 shooting. Brown dropped 35 points on 14-for-24 shooting.

The stars are still the stars, and they showed every sign of being ready for the difficult road ahead.

“We both are extremely competitive, both are trying to get better, trying to make our franchise better, trying to make our teammates better as we’re all chasing a championship,” Brown told reporters after the game. “We both had bad summer after losing to the Warriors on our home floor and had to answer for it all summer long. I can speak for him, and I can speak for myself that it was tough. So going into this season, we kept all of that in mind.”


Maybe the second most encouraging takeaway? Tatum did not play for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, and the Celtics still built their lead before he checked back in for the rest of the period. If they can stay healthy, this is a deeper, stronger Celtics team than the one that bowed out of the Finals a few months ago.

2. The Celtics defended Joel Embiid the way they usually defend him — with a big and plenty of help defense to throw him off balance. Al Horford picked up a pair of early fouls, and Noah Vonleh struggled initially.

But the Celtics solidified in the paint, and the Sixers didn’t really seem to adjust much. In the second half, Horford re-entered and matched up with Embiid again. Grant Williams gave some staunch minutes keeping Embiid away from the rim. Even Vonleh seemed better positioned as the game went on. The Celtics even limited James Harden a little better in the second half, and the lead ballooned to double digits.

3. Meanwhile, the Celtics maintained their beef with Embiid.

The call was a foul and a technical on Smart, which seemed harsh given the move Embiid tried to make with Smart’s hand trapped.


“I stop play, my arm’s still stuck in there and he tries to break it,” Smart said. “And then I’m the only one who gets a tech. Everybody saw it. I don’t have to keep talking about it. If I did that, I’m probably ejected, suspended three games, four games, fined. But the fact that I was the only one that got I guess something out of that is kind of beyond me. Especially defending [Defensive Player of the Year] and that’s how he gets treated. It’s tough.

“But, like I said, it’s maturity. I could have cracked his head open but I didn’t. And that’s the maturity we have. So we move on from it. It is what it is. And we control what we can control.”

Brown added it looked like Embiid was trying to hurt Smart.

“Ended up being nothing, ended up being a play-on, nobody got hurt,” Brown said. “We just ended up finishing the game, played some good basketball. But we got each other’s backs out there and we’re not taking no mess this year.”


4. We shouldn’t gloss over Vonleh, who deserves a lot of credit for rallying in the second half against Embiid. If there’s a complaint to be had about Tuesday’s game, it’s that the Celtics — predictably, given their personnel — struggled on the defensive glass against the enormous Sixers star, but Vonleh is best known for his ability to gobble up rebounds on both ends, and he was very playable in the final two quarters. Embiid looked discouraged by the Celtics’ double teams in the second half, but Vonleh also defended him considerably better late.

5. The Celtics outscored the 76ers 24-2 in fast-break points. They made it a point to play fast throughout the preseason, and they reaped the rewards against a Sixers team that isn’t always known for its ability to get back.

6. Malcolm Brogdon made his debut and looked like everything the Celtics hoped he would be with 16 efficient points and four assists. His presence makes the Celtics’ second unit incredibly dangerous, and lineups with Brogdon, Tatum, and Brown have the potential to be explosive.

7. Joe Mazzulla won the first regular-season game of his career, and he received the requisite water bath in the immediate aftermath.

A reporter noted to Brown that Mazzulla appeared to try to run from the water bath.

“I don’t think he knew it was coming, but I don’t know why he was surprised. He was looking around,” Brown said. “We’re happy for him. That was his first win as a head coach. And in the light of Bill Russell, here on our home floor, it was special.”


Tatum said players always knew Mazzulla had the makings of a head coach at the NBA level.

“The thing that I like about Joe and admire about him is that he’s very honest that he doesn’t know everything,” Tatum said. “He wants us to help him out as much as he’s helping us out. It’s like we’re in a relationship, and we’re all on the same page and trying to accomplish the same thing. We’re all in this together.”

8. In his first game since he and the Celtics failed to come to an agreement on a new contract, Grant Williams guarded James Harden and Joel Embiid, and he scored 15 points on 5-for-5 shooting (3-for-3 from 3-point range).

It’s still not entirely clear what the Celtics have in Grant Williams, but he might be costly to keep around next offseason. Of course, if he keeps playing like this, he will be a whole lot more costly to lose.

9. Jayson Tatum was asked about the Celtics’ tough summer after the game.

“I’m glad the season has started so we can in a sense stop talking about it,” Tatum said with a small smile. “But it was a tough summer for myself, everybody, because everywhere I went, somebody mentioned ‘good job in the Finals, next year, you guys did well.’ And they meant it in a good way, but it’s just a reminder that you lost. You got to the top and you didn’t get over that hump. So just kind of dealing with that all summer and realizing that it’s opening night. One team is getting their ring and we’re not. So that kind of kept me up late last night.


“But it’s a new season, and just ready to move past it.”

The Celtics face the Heat on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Miami.


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