Marcus Smart and Joel Embiid

USA Today

76ers vs. Celts

Got salt?

March 21, 2019 - 10:01 am
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The NCAA tournament opens the fire hose today. Today and tomorrow are incredible. You can POST UP on the couch or in a sports bar or even in a cubicle and crush the best event in all of sports, ALL DAY long. You’re going to see teams you’ve never heard of and players you’ve never seen before, and it’s going to be awesome.

But if today is the best day on the sports calendar, there’s another one coming up that could nearly as incredible. And that day is the day the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers meet in the NBA playoffs. Because based on what I saw last night, it will be the spiciest, saltiest matchups ever. And we, as a people, need to do everything in our power to make that happen. There’s nothing in this world, now more than ever, that we can agree upon. Except that. We need a Celtics-Sixers postseason matchup.

Let’s get the details of last night’s game out of the way. Philadelphia won 118-115. But that almost doesn’t even matter. That’s a minor point compared to everything else that went down. Because this game had everything. It had Joel Embiid having a monster game and Jimmy Butler having a monster fourth quarter. It had Philadelphia coming back from down double-digits in the second half and it had so much more.

It had Jimmy Butler posing after making clutch shots.

Marcus Smart just exploding on Joel Embiid and Twitter damn near exploded with him. Smart shoved Embiid from behind and sent him flying.

Either you love Marcus Smart or you hate him. Either you think he’s greatest, toughest player ever, or the cheapest, dirtiest player ever. And the truth is probably somewhere in between.

But that was not his best moment. Not by a long shot. I’m not going to call it a cheap shot because I don’t have to. Jo did it for me: "Obviously, I was frustrated, because it was a cheap shot. I didn't see it coming. It caught me off guard. But, I mean, I really don't want to talk about it. I don't care."

Blindsiding a guy like that is high drama, but it is low rent. And it’s not something you want to be doing in a situation like that because it got Smart ejected and Philadelphia went on an 8-0 run.

Then again, it’s not totally out of character for Smart, as Brad Stevens seemed to acknowledge after the game: "We needed him out there. Don't get it wrong: We love all that Marcus is. And part of Marcus is his fire. As you know, a time or two a year it gets the best of him. But this is just a reminder of how important he is. He knows how we all feel and he knows we all love him. That's just part of it. It's part of a long season."

That is very well said. That’s the “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed in you” speech that everyone heard from their parents at some point. And Stevens is right. The Celtics do feed off Smart’s fire, but that was way too much fire in that moment. And it burned them.

But that wasn’t even the best stuff from last night. The best stuff was everything that came after the game.

Think about that for a second. That was an absolute battle on the floor including some incredible moments, and I’m telling you that what happened afterwards was even better. And you should believe me. Because I’m right.

Because these two teams hate each other. There is a definite big brother-little brother thing here and the Celtics have been beating the crap out of little bro for a while now. They’ve bullied the Sixers, they’ve figured out ways to frustrate Jo, and last night was all about the Sixers fighting back and Jo getting loose.

But check the Celtics in the locker room after the game. Marcus Morris was asked about Embiid getting to the line so many times and his response was: “What’s the season series?”

And when told the answer that he already knew, that the Celtics had won it 3-1, Morris said: “OK. About time. About time.”

Like about time Embiid had a big game against Boston? “No. About time they got a win. About time.”

Got salt? Yes, yes he does. And then there was Terry Rozier who said "I thought the confetti was going to drop. No, I did. It was a big win, not trying to take nothing away from them. But I thought the confetti was dropping tonight."

That is awesome. Like, good job, good effort junior. You won a regular season game and you’re acting like you just ripped the Larry O. 

And that’s after a clip from an interview between Kristine Leahy and Rozier dropped earlier this week that had this exchange:

Question: First word that comes to mind when I say Joel Embiid?

Rozier: Lame.

Lame! 

Incredible. And if you think that went unnoticed by Jo, you better check yourself. Because he knows everything and he hears everything. Which is why he went with this in HIS postgame interview:

"I'm the most unstoppable player in the league." And when you see that stat line: 37 points, 20 of 21 from the line, and 22 rebounds, he makes a good argument. But as impressive as those numbers were, they take a distant second to dropping the “I’m the most unstoppable player in the league” right afterwards.

And then there was this from him on Instagram. A post of him celebrating, with Terry Rozier in the background. And the caption: “Big time win #theprocess.”  But the best part isn’t the photo or the caption, it’s the location: “Lametown.” Absolutely amazing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t want a Celtics-Sixers playoff rematch. I need it. And I need it right now. And I need it to go 17 games.