Well, here we are. The series most Sixers fans have been dreading has finally arrived: Sixers-Celtics. Now, the Sixers match up against the Celtics in the postseason for the first time since 2019-20 in the bubble.
Most have Boston pegged as favorites, and for good reason — the Celtics are coming off a Finals appearance and added the Sixth Man of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon. An already great team got better. Not to mention, they also have home-court advantage.
Weirdly enough, Boston hasn’t been playing its best basketball as of late, which is reflected in their first-round series results. The Celtics ripped off a quick 2-0 lead, before the Hawks stole two games — including one that didn’t feature Dejounte Murray. The Celtics’ talent carried them to a series victory, but it wasn’t what most people expected from the C’s.
As expected, the franchise duo, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, have been on fire early on in the postseason. They’re averaging a combined 53.9 points per game alone. The Celtics have also gotten increased production from Derrick White, who at times was arguably the best guard in the first round series on both ends. If the Sixers have any hope, they’ll have to slow down his hot postseason start.
Along with White, the Celtics have a three-headed guard rotation with Marcus Smart and Brogdon. It’ll be interesting to see how the Sixers’ backcourt trio of Tyrese Maxey, James Harden and De’Anthony Melton fare.
On the Sixers’ side of things, Joel Embiid’s availability overshadows everything. We’ve seen countless reports of optimism, and other reports doubting his early series availability. Most recently, Doc Rivers has alluded to him being doubtful (and that is Embiid’s official designation for Game 1), saying he’s done some more stuff but still not a usual workload in practice. We’ve seen players who were listed as doubtful play before, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
The possible absence of Embiid will mean an increased workload across the board, most notably with Harden, Maxey, and Tobias Harris.
Harden has had a weird postseason thus far. The playmaking has been mostly good, but his scoring has been flat out polarizing. While he’s shot well from behind the arc, his finishing has been rough to say the least. He’ll need to score at all three levels against Boston’s elite defense.
Harden’s shot chart is very polarizing! pic.twitter.com/v1g4NJKmmq— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) April 24, 2023
Both Maxey and Harris were awesome in the Brooklyn series, and hopefully their early production can carry over into this series. Maxey, in particular, struggled mightily against Boston throughout the season. All of Boston’s main guards are above-average defenders, and they’ll need Maxey to chip in a consistent 20 points throughout this series.
Assuming Embiid sits, it’ll be another huge spot for Paul Reed. He stepped up in the final game of the Nets series with an efficient 10 points and 15 rebounds. Assuming he plays well in a potential start or throughout the series, and Reed has a chance to secure a massive pay raise this summer.
With or without Embiid, let’s hope the Sixers can start off this series on the right foot. Even one win in the next two would put them in a great spot moving forward.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics
When: 7:30 pm EST, Monday May 1st
Where: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic