PHILADELPHIA — The 76ers defeated the Celtics, 107-93, in the season-opener for both teams on Wednesday. Here are some thoughts and observations from the game:
■ It was a rough debut for Kemba Walker, who could never quite get untracked offensively. He made 4-of-18 shots and had just 12 points, 2 assists, and 2 rebounds. He said before the game how his teammates have already expressed to him that he cannot be passive, and Boston will obviously need much more from its three-time All-Star.
Gordon Hayward had 25 points to lead the Celtics. Former Celtic Al Horford had 16 points in his first game for his new team.
■ There were 63 combined fouls and 24 missed free throws, if that’s your thing. (That’s no one’s thing.) The Celtics were just 20 of 34 from the line.
■ Coach Brad Stevens went with the these-are-my-five-best-players-even-though-they’re-small lineup late in the fourth, with Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Hayward. There is not even a true power forward in this group, but its versatility and speed should make it an interesting grouping this year. It had success on offense but allowed some easy baskets inside.
■ Perhaps the game’s biggest play occurred 53 seconds into the third quarter. Brown, who collected four first-half fouls, attacked the rim and went up against Joel Embiid. There was contact, and initially the officials ruled it was a foul on Embiid. But Brown ultimately caught Embiid in the face with his elbow, resulting in an offensive foul, Brown’s fifth. He went back to the bench, and the 76ers continued on with a 19-2 run.
■ Although Daniel Theis emerged during the preseason as the Celtics’ likely starting center, Enes Kanter drew the start for Wednesday’s game. That is more likely a matchup decision than an indication that Kanter is there to stay. The 76ers have the most hulking frontline in the NBA, and the 6-foot-10-inch, 250-pound Kanter offers more heft and rebounding against players like Embiid and Horford than the 6-8 Theis.
Kanter held his own against Embiid in the first half, with the help of some double-teams, as Embiid mostly settled for jump shots.
■ Let it be known that after all the Kobe Bryant talk and vows to attack the rim and pushback from Tatum on his scoring profile, the season started with a contested mid-range jumper from Tatum. It missed.
■ Tatum was assertive offensively in the first quarter, taking 9 of Boston’s 23 shots. He had a sluggish start before drilling a pair of 3-pointers late.
■ Carsen Edwards generated plenty of attention for his 3-point shooting in the preseason. The 76ers seemed well aware of it with the defensive attention they paid him early. But Edwards’s first NBA attempt was an airball from the right corner that missed the rim by about 2 feet.
■ The 76ers have a tradition where a celebrity of some kind rings a large bell — sort of a Liberty Bell? — before each home game. It’s usually not a player. But on Wednesday it was Horford. Credit to the Sixers where credit is due for a solid troll job.
■ Fouls were an issue for the Celtics throughout the first half, as they put the Sixers into the penalty early both times. Philly took 23 free throws in the first half, and Walker had three fouls at the break, to go along with Brown’s four.
■ Robert Williams displayed his athleticism in some promising moments. In the first half he soared for an alley-oop from Smart, then sprinted over to help on Ben Simmons from the weak side and swatted his shot out of bounds. Then in the third quarter he had a strong putback and dove on the floor for a steal. His development would be a boon for Boston as the season progresses.
■ Smart got perhaps the most appropriate revenge on his friend Horford. Late in the second quarter, Horford set a screen and Smart either flopped or did a great job selling the play, and Horford was called for an illegal screen. The usually mild-mannered Horford was furious at the call.
■ Sixers coach Brett Brown thinks Horford’s presence will be invaluable throughout this season, and added that the knowledge Horford gained when battling against Philadelphia as a member of the Celtics can only help.
“To communicate with Al and say what do you think, in years gone by what would you have done as it relates to Philadelphia? I ask that question a lot, one-on-one or in front of the team. He’s fantastic sharing that and we listen. I am just so thrilled for leadership reasons, talent reasons, historical perspective reasons, that Al Horford is a Philadelphia 76er.
■ Tacko Fall (concussion) and Romeo Langford (knee) were not available, and they were joined by Javonte Green and Tremont Waters on the inactive list. Green, a 26-year-old rookie, said that 12 family members from Virginia came to Philadelphia to see him on an NBA bench for the first time anyway.