Not surprisingly, 76ers guard Josh Richardson received extra motivation during Thursday’s 109-98 win over the visiting Boston Celtics from the absence of injured teammate Joel Embiid.
“A few of us knew since he wasn’t playing we would have to be more aggressive because he is quite possibly the best center in the game and he is a huge piece of our offense. So we kind of knew it’s kind of a mental note you have to take going into it,” Richardson said. “I knew that early on I would have to be aggressive to give our offense a good shot.”
True to his word, Richardson scored 13 points in the first quarter. It helped the Sixers tread water since they were down, 35-26, after the first 12 minutes.
“I thought his attitude and his attack mentality right out of the gate was impressive,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said of Richardson. “He was just extremely aggressive on both sides of the ball immediately.”
Richardson was relatively quiet on offense the next two quarters before coming alive in the fourth. He scored 14 points in the final period, hitting 5 of 8 shots and all four of his free throws as the Sixers outscored Boston, 32-18.
Richardson, in his first year with the Sixers, had to force himself to be a little out of character and show a selfish side against the Celtics.
“In Houston, I got caught up in being unselfish, passing, which isn’t a bad fault to have,” he said.
He was referring to last Friday’s 118-108 loss to the Rockets. In that game, Richardson scored only seven points, shooting 2-for-7 from the field.
“I talked to Coach a little bit, and he said it gives the offense a different look when I am aggressive like that and gives people much space to work,” Richardson said.
Actually, his aggressiveness began the game before when the Sixers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 120-113, Monday at the Wells Fargo Center. Richardson scored 23 points, shooting 9-for-17 from the field, including 2-for-4 from three-point range.
Thursday, he took his aggressiveness and scoring up a notch.
Richardson finished with 29 points in 33 minutes, 50 seconds. He shot 9-for-16 from the floor. He was just 1-for-5 from three-point range, but he made all 10 of his foul shots. He also had seven assists, with two turnovers.
Richardson’s plus-15 rating was second best on the team, behind Al Horford, who was a plus-19 in moving from power forward to center in place of Embiid.
The 10 free throws were Richardson’s most as a Sixer. In fact, Richardson has yet to miss a free throw this season against the Celtics. In the three victories over Boston, , he is 21-for-21 from the foul line.
Thursday’s performance was more impressive considering Richardson also had the difficult assignment of guarding lightning-quick Kemba Walker most of the time. Walker scored 26 points, but just three in the fourth quarter as Richardson played all 12 minutes.