Last Word on Pro Basketball is giving you an NBA Playoffs preview for each series as it begins inside the bubble.
The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers rivalry will be renewed on Monday. This will be the 23rd time that each team has met in the NBA playoffs. This is the most NBA playoff matchups ever between two teams. They last met in the 2018 NBA playoffs Semifinals, where a shorthanded Boston Celtics squad was able to defeat the 76ers in five games.
NBA Playoffs Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers
The frontcourt of the 76ers is extraordinarily strong even with the injury of Ben Simmons. Tobias Harris, Al Horford, and Joel Embiid are all great players in their own right. In the 2019-20 NBA season, Harris is averaging 19.6 points 6.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.6 blocks.
Horford is not the player he used to be, but he can still put up some numbers. He is averaging 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, four assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game.
The Celtics also have strong forwards, which includes Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward. Brown is averaging 20.3 points 6.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.4 blocks per game.
This is while Hayward is averaging 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.4 blocks per game. Looking at the production of the forwards, the Celtics have the edge. However, the edge of the frontcourt will be given to the 76ers after looking at the centers.
The 76ers’ Embiid is averaging 23 points, 11.6 rebounds, three assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game. One of his most notable games was scoring 49 points against the Atlanta Hawks on February 24.
This is while the Celtics have Daniel Theis. He is averaging 9.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.6 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game. It is clear when comparing the two players that Embiid has the clear edge, which therefore gives the 76ers the advantage in the frontcourt.
MVP chants tonight for Joel Embiid
Career high 49 points 🔥🔥
Most points by a Sixer since Allen Iverson 14 years ago
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) February 25, 2020
This is one area of this NBA Playoffs preview where the Boston Celtics have an incredible advantage over the 76ers. Kemba Walker is an NBA All-Star and Jayson Tatum has played extremely well this year. Tatum has the most points per game for the Celtics in the Orlando bubble according to stats.nba.com.
He is averaging 22.4 points per game in the bubble. He is also shooting 44.9 percent in his last eight games and has the second-highest steals per game (behind Marcus Smart) for the Celtics according to stats.nba.com. In the 2019-20 NBA season, Walker is averaging 20.4 points, 4.8 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals, and 0.4 blocks per game.
The 76ers guards, unfortunately, are not nearly as good. Josh Richardson is averaging 13.7 points, two rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.7 blocks per game. Shake Milton, the other starting guard for the 76ers is averaging 9.4 points, 2.6 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.2 blocks per game in the 2019-20 NBA season.
The one matchup NBA fans should be looking at is Walker vs. Richardson. Walker faced Richardson in the 2014 and 2016 NBA playoffs. Richardson had success against Walker in the NBA playoffs. However, Walker seems ready for the challenge in 2020.
Kemba Walker: "I can't escape Josh (Richardson) man. Every time I go to the playoffs, I'm going against him. He's a great defender. Great size and great length."
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) August 15, 2020
Both the 76ers’ player’s stats are decent; however, they will be facing against two players who are playing at an NBA All-Star level. Even if Richardson is able to guard Walker the gulf of difference in offense is just too much to overcome. The edge of the backcourt goes to the Celtics.
Both teams do not have a bench to rely on. The 76ers are 26th in bench points according to stats.nba.com. This is while the Celtics are 29th for bench points in the league. They have both improved though in the Orlando bubble.
The 76ers have 44.5 rebounds per game and the Celtics have 38.8 rebounds per game. However, the Celtics have a large edge in rebounds per game from the bench. The Celtics bench is 11th in rebounds per game, while the 76ers are 28th in rebounds per game in the 2019/20 NBA season. A big part of this is the Celtics having Enes Kanter. Kanter is averaging 7.4 rebounds per game for the Celtics.
This is a close one. However, with the injury of Simmons, the bench of the 76ers will be weaker. Furthermore, it is important to note that the bench will get shorter in the playoffs. There will only be a few guys teams will rely on from the bench.
Furthermore, the Celtics have Smart on the bench. Smart is averaging 12.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game. Yes, Smart has struggled in the bubble but is capable of scoring more than 20 points.
There is no player on the bench for the 76ers that can compete with Smart from the Celtics. Furthermore, the team defense of the Celtics is much better than the 76ers. The edge of the bench goes to the Celtics.
Jayson Tatum carries out some late-game heroics by scoring two go-ahead buckets to force OT, finishes the game second in scoring behind team-leading and efficient 31 points from Gordon Hayward as Boston earns win No. 47 on the year over Orlando. https://t.co/feqR8sSucN
— NBA@SneakerReporter (@NBA_SR) August 9, 2020
The Celtics look like a more cohesive team with better chemistry in this NBA Playoffs preview, which cannot be said for last year. Walker deserves a lot of credit for making the Celtics a more cohesive unit. However, they still do not like passing the ball as they are 25th in the league according to teamrankings.com.
This is while the 76ers are eighth in the league in assists per game. What these statistics show us is that the 76ers are more willing to sacrifice a good shot for a great shot for another teammate. This point is so important, especially in the NBA playoffs. However, it is also fair to say that the now injured Simmons played a big role in that averaging eight assists per game in the 2019-20 NBA season.
Looking at hustle stats, the Celtics are incredibly skilled at screen assists that create points according to stats.nba.com. They are ranked fourth in that category while the 76ers are ranked 26th. The Celtics lead the 76ers in many different categories including contested shots, charges drawn, and deflections. However, the 76ers have the edge in loose balls recovered over the Celtics.
Lastly, looking at box outs according to stats.nba.com, the Celtics are ranked fifth while the 76ers are ranked 13th. All of these stats showed that the Celtics are the team more likely to do the intangible plays to win. The plays that do not appear in the scoresheet. This gives the Celtics the advantage over the 76ers.
Brad Stevens is a great coach for the Boston Celtics that made the 2017 NBA All-Star Game with the best record in the Eastern Conference. This is what Kanter said according to Justin Leger of NBC Sports:
“What makes him so special is what he does off the court,” Kanter said about Stevens. “He’s the type of coach that tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Always keeps it 100 percent real with you. More than a coach, he’s just a friend, man. You can literally go to talk to him about anything.”
Stevens made the NBA Eastern Conference Finals in 2017 and 2018. In 2018, he made the Eastern Conference Finals without Kyrie Irving.
Brett Brown is a great head coach of his own right. He won four NBA Championships as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs. However, he was out-coached by Stevens in the 2018 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
For example, in-game two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Brown did not call a timeout late in the first half according to Dave Uram of 94wip.radio.com. The Celtics cut the deficit from 22 to five points to close the first half. The Boston Celtics won that game 108-103.
NBA Playoffs Preview Prediction – Celtics in Six
The Celtics have the advantage of four of the five factors needed to win the NBA playoff series. Furthermore, losing Simmons and the concerns of an injured Embiid might put the 76ers out of this series. However, this will still be a relatively close series as the 76ers won the season series 3-1. The 76ers will make a series out of it and push it to six games.
However, this prediction depends on how healthy Embiid is. According to Shams Charania, an NBA Insider/Writer/Analyst for The Athletic and Stadium said that Embiid suffered a right ankle injury.
Philadelphia star Joel Embiid (left ankle) will return to 76ers lineup tonight against Toronto, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 12, 2020
According to ESPN, Romeo Langford is day-to-day with torn ligaments to his wrist. According to Abigail Adams of nesn.com, Walker is doing well recovering from his injury.
The 76ers are in the worst state though. While Glenn Robinson is day-to-day, Mike Scott, Simmons, Ryan Broekhoff, and Zhaire Smith are likely not to play in the post-season because of injury according to ESPN.
The first game between the Celtics and the 76ers will take place on Monday and the second game will take place on Wednesday. The winner of this playoff series will face the winner of the Toronto Raptors–Brooklyn Nets series.
See you Monday, @sixers #BleedGreen | #BeatPHILA pic.twitter.com/6FBMGBrklz
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) August 13, 2020