We are headed for the 3rd chapter of the modern Boston Philadelphia rivalry. Boston beat the Sixers in 2018 and in 2020 so Philly will certainly be looking for some revenge. Tim Bontemps previewed the series on ESPN and I want to dive into a little more detail on a few of these important points. Here are a few things to keep an eye on as we get ready for Game 1!
Boston’s deep roster affords them the ability to go big or small. Going big with Robert Williams III allows for a stouter defensive line vs Embiid but the lack of offensive threat from the Time Lord could allow Embiid to free roam more defensively or conserve himself. Going smaller would likely do the opposite, greater offensive versatility and spread Joel out but perhaps be more prone to defensive punishment. Derrick White along with Tatum, Brown, Smart and Horford had an ORtg of 129.2 in 11 minutes vs Philly this year. Keep an eye on how Mazzulla adjusts as the series evolves. Speaking of Embiid…
MV-Biid or MVP?
The health of Joel is probably the number one thing to keep an eye on. Despite losing the season series, Joel really showed off his capability to dominate statistically vs Boston when he dropped 52/13/6 on April 4th against the men in green. He scored 41, 28, 26 in the other 3 games against the Celtics, all of which were single-digit 76er losses. As a whole Embiid with Harden, Tucker, Maxey and Harris was a +12.8 for their NRtg this year. He’s about 50/50 to go for Game 1 as of Friday, April 28 and his availability will have the biggest impact on the series.
Which Harden are we getting?
Eyes will be on Harden’s ability to score, specifically from 2. He shot just 9/34 vs BKN and only 4/26 if you filter out the game he was ejected in. He shot 23% in the paint vs BKN whereas Boston did a pretty good job against opponents this season defending the paint, only 48.9 PPG which is 9th in the whole league. The good sign for Sixer fans is that the Celtics switched a LOT vs Harden this year yet he was still able to net 1.17 points per chance which is really good and about 0.22 points per chance higher than the Celtics average. If shots are able to fall for Harden when they didn’t against Brooklyn then that makes a big difference
The Celtics take a lot of 3s and I mean a lot. HIGH 3 point rate yet they still make them at a top 6-7 clip. Boston should have the perimeter scoring advantage. If Boston catches fire from 3 a few times this series then that’s an uphill battle for Philly.
Tyrese Maxey was fantastic in the first round series vs BKN averaging 22/5 on 47/50/80 splits while Harden and Embiid struggled. His kryptonite just might be the Celtics, however. This year he only averaged 10 points per game against them with a TS% of .402, nearly 18 points below the league TS% average. Him picking up the offensive slack could help the Sixers make this a long series.
Prediction: Boston in 6
If Philly gets the Joel that we saw all year then they have the best player in the series. His health status keeps the Sixers chances up in the air especially considering we aren’t sure what we will get from Harden and Maxey. Boston has been inconsistent themselves this postseason as they struggled to put away an inferior Hawks team, but they are the deeper team. It’s not outside the realm of possibility for Philly to steal the series but if Boston gets out to a quick start to the series while Embiid is on the mend then the Sixers will have some ground to make up.