At his postgame news conference, Rozier looked positively resplendent in a jean jacket with a leopard-print collar. Not to be outdone, the first-year forward Jayson Tatum wore a button-down shirt with a pink flower pattern. The Celtics, who few thought would be in this position, two wins from the conference finals, seem to be enjoying the experience.
“Once we got on that run, we never looked back,” Rozier said.
He was referring to a sizable stretch of Game 2’s second quarter when the Celtics, after trailing by as many as 22, bulldozed the 76ers in transition. Rozier wound up finishing with 20 points and 9 assists in the Celtics’ 108-103 victory. His performance only amplified the struggles of Simmons, the opposing point guard, who essentially vanished: 1 point and 7 assists in 31 minutes.
“I’m going to have bad games,” Simmons said. “It happens. Obviously, it’s not the perfect timing.”
Simmons is just 21, still playing his first full season in the N.B.A. and still the prohibitive favorite to be named the N.B.A.’s rookie of the year. But for all his gifts, there is no substitute for experience, a lesson that Rozier has reinforced through the first two games of this series.
By suffocating Simmons with playoff-tested defenders, and by choking off his passing lanes, the Celtics have reminded Simmons that he would benefit from developing some semblance of an outside shot this off-season. He will have time to hone one — though not soon enough, perhaps, to salvage the series for Philadelphia.
“Not saying he can’t score,” Rozier said, “but he wants to pass. We take that away, we feel pretty good about it.”