No matter how much Boston Celtics players talk about staying in the moment, they’re human.
They pay attention to the basketball world around them far more than they try to let on. So prior to their two-game weekend trip to Brooklyn and Philadelphia, there was no need to talk to them much about Monday’s matchup against Washington. They knew it was coming which may have proven to be a bit of a distraction in their 105-99 loss at Philadelphia on Sunday.
Boston struggled in so many phases of play, seemingly at their worst to end quarters which gave an already-improving Sixers team more confidence and momentum going forward as they rallied from a 13-point Celtics lead in the third quarter to get the win.
You can count Jae Crowder among those who believes there were a few bodies inside the locker room who may have had some of their attention and focus away from the Sixers and on to the next game against the Wizards who are right behind the Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings.
“We were talking about, a few guys overlooking this game; I think so, looking forward to the Washington game,” Crowder told reporters after Sunday’s loss. “That’s what happens when you overlook an opponent, especially these guys.”
The Sixers came in having won two of its previous three games, the last of which was a blowout win over Dallas.
Dario Saric has emerged as their best player with Joel Embiid out for the rest of the season. Saric, a front-runner for the league’s Rookie of the Year award, led the Sixers with 23 points on 10-for-20 shooting on Sunday, in addition to grabbing six rebounds while dishing out four assists.
Role players like Robert Covington (16 points, eight rebounds, two steals vs. Celtics on Sunday) have found ways to contribute while others such as Richaun Holmes (11 points, seven rebounds, five assists, four blocked shots) provide a specific niche that at the very least allows the Sixers to be more competitive.
And while the Celtics led through various stretches all game, there was never a sense that they had full control of the game in large part because their level of focus never seemed to reach its peak.
Now maybe not having Isaiah Thomas (knee) had something to do with that. Prior to Sunday’s game, Boston was 2-3 this season in games in which Thomas did not play. But that’s still no excuse for the team’s overall level of focus to not be high. In fact, one would think that playing without Thomas would have led to an increased level of focus and detail to try and make up for Thomas’ absence.
“They’re very capable,” Crowder said of the Sixers. “They play so hard. A few of us were overlooking this game, going into tomorrow.”