A scandal off the court cast a shadow over the Boston Celtics entering the preseason.
On the court, they opened the regular season looking like a team still very much capable of contending for a championship. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each scored 35 points and the Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 126-117 on Tuesday night in the NBA’s season opener. Malcolm Brogdon added 16 points and Grant Williams finished with 15 as the defending Eastern Conference champions gave interim coach Joe Mazzulla a victory in his debut on a night the team honored the legacy of Bill Russell.
Mazzulla has been tasked with leading the team after Ime Udoka was suspended for the season following an investigation by a law firm that found he committed multiple violations of team policies. Mazzulla successfully led a Celtics team that very much resembled the one that made a surprise run to the NBA Finals a season ago. Joel Embiid added 26 points and 15 rebounds. Tyrese Maxey finished with 21 points.
Mazzulla has vowed to keep the focus on building upon the culture Udoka established on the court as a rookie head coach last season.
He insists that it will be done primarily on the defensive end of the floor, but the offense was the story for the Celtics on Tuesday with 56% shooting from the field.
The 76ers are looking to contend with the top teams in the East with Harden embarking on his first full season in Philadelphia after being swapped for Ben Simmons late last season in a trade with Brooklyn. Harden looked rejuvenated coming off a season defined by hamstring injuries that hampered his effectiveness in a truncated 21 regular-season games with the Sixers last season.