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Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter respond to big challenge vs. Joel Embiid, Sixers

On paper, it may look like Joel Embiid has had his way with Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter in the Celtics-76ers first-round series. But Chris Forsberg explains why the two C’s big men should be commended for their efforts.

Celtics big men Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter were given a rather daunting task for Boston’s first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers: Stop Joel Embiid from being the most dominant player on the court.

Despite eating a whole bunch of elbows and watching Embiid bully his way to easy buckets at times, Theis and Kanter have responded to the challenge. Even as Embiid ha averaged 30 points and 13 rebounds over the first three games of the series, the Celtics have dominated during his floor time.

It’s a big reason the Celtics are up 3-0 looking to close out a sweep of the best-of-seven series on Sunday inside the bubble.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston’s coverage of Celtics-76ers Game 4, which begins Sunday at 12 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

If you saw only the raw numbers, you’d think Embiid was toying with Theis and Kanter. Embiid has scored 69 points on 24-of-46 shooting (52.2 percent) when either of those players have been the primary defender, per the NBA’s tracking data. That includes drawing 11 shooting fouls.

But we’ve all seen how this series has gone. Embiid typically dominates early, gets gassed, and fades late. He’s padded his numbers in the first half and Boston has simply weathered the storm in those moments. Boston has challenged their supporting cast to beat them in those instances and they haven’t been able to do it.

The Celtics own a pristine defensive rating of 97.7 in the 44 minutes that Kanter and Embiid have shared the floor in this series. Boston’s net rating in that span is a staggering plus-29.7. Swap in Theis with Embiid on the court and Boston’s defensive rating is still a solid 100 with a plus-22.3 net rating.

Theis has been overpowered at times and, even when he holds up well, he seems to get whistled for a foul (theā€¦

Chris Forsberg

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