After the Philadelphia 76ers handled the Brooklyn Nets easily in a four game sweep, and the Boston Celtics took care of the Atlanta Hawks in an unexpected six games, The two will meet in the playoffs, for the 22nd time, the most in NBA history. Also for the third time since Jayson Tatum was drafted.
This time it will be in the Eastern Conference Semifinals as the two and three seeds, holding records of 57-25 and 54-28 respectively.
This matchup is no stranger to the fan bases as it is one of the marquee rivalries in the sport.
And a nasty one at that. There is no love lost between these two franchises or fan bases.
To touch on history quickly, the Jays have played the Joel Embiid 76ers two times in the playoffs, two times they have won. With a combined record of 8-1 in those matchups.
Of course, that means absolutely nothing when it comes to this year.
So let’s talk this year, the Celtics are 3-1 in the regular season matchups this season, the only loss coming in the final matchup between the two when the Celtics lost, playing without Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams.
Regular season also doesn’t mean much when it comes to a seven game playoff series, but it does provide a snapshot of how the two match up. And in those four matchups, all were decided by single digits.
Safe to say this series could be a stressful one.
Comparing The Numbers
The Celtics and 76ers were both top 10 in offense and defensive rating as well as top 15 in points scored and points allowed per game.
The Celtics ranked third with 117.9 points per game, and second in offensive rating at 117.3, defensively they were fifth in points allowed at 111.4, and second with a 110.6 defensive rating.
The 76ers were 14th with 115.2 points per game and third in offensive rating at 117.
Defensively they were third only allowing 110.9 points per game, and eighth in defensive rating at 112.7.
When they played each other in the regular season, defense was the superior as both teams were held to less than their point per game average in all of the games outside of the season opener back in October.
Strengths vs Weakness
One thing the Celtics can attack in this series, and have attacked in the regular season matchup against the 76ers is their lack of perimeter defense, particularly from their guards.
The Celtics guard trio have been the unsung hero for this team all season long, and this is a series where they can continue to be that.
The Celtics guards all have different skill sets and abilities, but all of them can create their own shot, and a shot for others. Especially by driving downhill and attacking the rim.
Combining this with the lack of defense from the Philly guards, it allows the Celtics to rely on their bread and butter drive and kick offense.
In the three games of the regular season matchup where mostly everybody played, the Celtics shot 44% from three, seven percent better than their season average mark.
If the Celtics can effectively use the drive and kick offense, with Al Horford playing five out, that will eventually force Joel Embiid out of the paint to try and force Al off the three line, which will then open up the lane for layups and backdoor cuts.
While the Celtics are 20th in the league in pace, the 76ers are 27th, but when the Celtics focus on pace they can really get out and run.
Getting out in transition after misses is something I expect the Celtics to attack.
It will be interesting to see who can dictate the pace and style of play, and which team can adapt better to the other team’s pace and style.
Game One is Monday 730pm at the Garden. Go Time.
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