Celtics-Philadelphia rivalry is back - we've missed it!
It's back! The Eastern Conference Celtics-versus-76'ers rivalry is back, and it's about time!
Wilt Chamberlain and Hal Greer have left us, but Bill Russell and Sam Jones remain alive and vibrant. Much has been written on the Russ/Wilt match-up, but the Jones/Greer rivalry was a good one also. The fight between late Larry Siegried and Wali Jones will be remembered. The 60's saw a lot of empty seats in Boston Garden, but if memory serves me correctly, the 76'ers coming into town also brought the fans.
In the 80's, our Big-3 of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale reignited the rivalry against Philadelphia with Julius Erving and Charles Barkley. The battle got real when Larry Bird maybe did a bit too much trash-talking and a fight broke out involving Larry, Doctor J and Sir Charles. Barkley to this day insists he didn't hold Bird so Erving could punch him.
Well, it's back! The players are different, but we have two Eastern Conference teams that are very good right now and project to get even better. The two teams are loaded with talent and many of the players have yet to peak.
Boston finished the regular season in second place in the East, followed by Philadelphia third. Philly has a young twin-tower duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. But they don't play like twin-towers. Simmons at 6'10" plays point guard. And he is a super talent. He does it all.
Embiid is 7' tall but doesn't play like a 7-footer. Well, he actually does but he can also play like a wing. He can handle the ball, set up teammates from the low-or-high post and score from distance. He and Ben are a potent pair. They also have a strong supporting cast that has size in addition to scoring and rebounding ability.
Boston is now into the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, as are their opponents, the 76'ers. The Celtics will be missing at least three of their top-8 players - Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving and Daniel Theis. They may also be missing a fourth top-8 guy in Jaylen Brown, possibly out of action with a strained hamstring.
It starts tonight at TD Garden, and a win with the current injury-depleted crew will be difficult, but well within the team's potential to accomplish. It wasn't a fair fight in the Bird versus Erving and Barkley fight, and neither is tonight's contest. But Brad Stevens and his team keep pulling out the wins despite adversity. I haven't seen any indication of it yet, but Sir Charles will be picking the 76'ers over the Celtics to take the series. He wrongly picked the Bucks over the Celtics. He keeps trying to hold this team back like he did to Larry. That didn't work either!
Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC
Top photo via RedTreeTimes.com
Bottom photo via Philly.com/AP