Series Preview, Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers
The question is, where does Philly excel, and where can Boston take advantage of them? Let's take a closer look at some of the things they do well, and where they might struggle against the Celtics.
Joel Embiid is the catalyst for the Sixers on the offensive end. With season averages of 33.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, the likely MVP had himself quite the 2022-23 campaign. Philadelphia will look to play through Embiid all series long, their only concern will be how much he can play, as he's dealing with a bit of a knee issue.
As a team, the Sixers ranked 3rd in both points allowed and net rating in the regular season. Despite his age, PJ Tucker proved to be a great pickup for the 76ers this offseason, providing energy on the defensive end alongside the inside presence of Joel Embiid. Paired with a couple of other great individual defenders in De'Anthony Melton and Jaden McDaniels, the Sixers can sit down and guard with the best of 'em.
Another thing Philadelphia will benefit from is some extra time off after sweeping the Nets. By the time game 1 rolls around on Monday in Boston, it'll be 9 days since the last time the 76ers took the court. Tyrese Maxey and James Harden will both need to have a great series if Philadelphia wants a real shot in this one. They are both more than capable, but the wing defenders of Boston may cause them some issues.
Where Philadelphia Struggles
Jayson Tatum is 8-1 against the 76ers in the Playoffs pic.twitter.com/dioy2opMM7— CelticsMuse (@CelticsMuse) April 28, 2023
In a stress-free opening round series, there were a few concerns that came out of it for the 76ers. Even though they swept the Nets, the Sixers only managed to score 103.8 points per game. While this number was fine against a subpar Brooklyn team, 103.8 points isn't a recipe for success against the Celtics.
This low number included just 17.3 points per game from James Harden, who shot an abysmal 34.3% from the floor, including 26.5% from inside the three-point line. Harden really struggled to get past the athletic wings of the Nets, and the Celtics have arguably the best-defending backcourt in the league with Marcus Smart and Derrick White. If Harden can't figure it out, that'll put even more pressure on the rest of the team.
Philadelphia is a very similar team to Phoenix in my opinion. They have an excellent starting 5, but their lack of depth may cause them issues against better teams. Boston on the other hand has 7 guys who could go and start for any team in the NBA, and I think that might be the difference in this series.
The Celtics won the regular season series 3-1, with their only loss coming in a 103-101 thriller in Philadelphia. Joel Embiid needed 52 points to win that one, while Jaylen Brown didn't even play. It may be an unpopular opinion, but I don't think this Philadelphia team is on the same level as the Celtics. If Boston plays up to their potential and doesn't make mental mistakes, I won't be surprised if this series isn't very competitive. I like the Celtics a lot in this matchup.
Prediction: Celtics in 5