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Celtics solid at center position versus 76'ers, but one adjustment is needed

The Celtics center position looked pretty solid last night, despite the 115-109 loss to the rival Philadelphia 76'ers. Philly center, Joel Embiid, obviously motivated by criticism from Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal, went on a rampage, which was matched by Boston's center pairing of Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter (per Celtics.com's Taylor Snow):

Boston’s tag-team center combination of Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis took turns stepping into the ring Thursday night to grapple with one of their most daunting assignments of the season. Facing them in the opposite corner of TD Garden was one of the NBA’s most dominant heavyweights in Joel Embiid, who was as hungry as always to take on the rival Celtics.

The Philadelphia big man threw punch after punch, as he poured in a season-high 38 points on the C’s. Though, Kanter and Theis matched him blow-for-blow, dropping season-highs of their own with 20 points and 16 points respectively.

Celtics solid center pairing


Daniel and Enes combined for 36 points and 14 rebounds, while shooting 17-of-24 from the field (70.8%). Kanter focused on defending Embiid, and he was able to match Joel's physicality. Philly's star big man ignored both Theis and Kanter with Boston on the offensive attack, and they took advantage of it. Kanter was 10-of-13 from inside and mid-range. Theis was 7-of-11 from everywhere, including 1-of-2 from beyond the arc.

That brings up the adjustment that needs to be instituted. Daniel admittedly has trouble battling the big brutes down low. But he is a decent 3-point shooter, and he needs to take more of them. Last season, Theis hit 26-of-67 3-point shots, which translates to 39% accuracy. In the last five games this season, he has connected on 5-of-8 three-pointers for 62.5% accuracy.

Last night, Joel could be seen constantly basket-hanging and allowing Kanter and Theis to put up shots at will from distance. It simply makes sense, that if Daniel can't handle Embiid inside, then he needs to force him out to the perimeter.

Embiid may be the toughest cover in the NBA for rival centers, and Theis and Kanter both had a great outing against him last night. I truly believe that, had Marcus Smart been available (eye infection), he would have made the difference in this contest. His disruption on the defensive end would have thrown a wrench into Philly's relentless offensive attack. He is that important.

Follow Tom at @CelticsSentinel, @Causeway Street and Facebook


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