The Philadelphia 76ers are determined to make a Finals run following a sweep of the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. But can they make it that far?
Can the Philadelphia 76ers Make a Finals Run?
In the East, most have considered the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics the teams to beat. But with the eight-seeded Miami Heat upsetting Milwaukee, that leaves one less star-studded team for Philadelphia to worry about. They’ll face Boston in the second round, following their 4-2 series win against the Atlanta Hawks.
The Celtics are headlined by the All-Star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Both are offensive powerhouses and are just one of three pairs of teammates in the playoffs to rank in the top 15 in points per game. Tatum had a career year, joining the MVP conversation for a while and becoming the first Celtics player to average over 30 PPG in a season. Brown is also excelling, posting career-highs in points (26.6), field goal percentage (49.1%), rebounds (6.9), and assists (3.5). Alongside them, this team has extraordinary depth. Most notably, they have Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, role player Derrick White, and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart. Also, in the regular season, Boston was the only team to hold a top-three offense (117.3) and defense (110.6).
If they beat the Celtics and advance to the next round, the Sixers would face the winner of the Heat-New York Knicks series. They should be able to take either team, but it won’t be as easy as the Brooklyn series. The Heat are at a disadvantage without Tyler Herro. But, a team led by Jimmy Butler, who is averaging a league-most 37.7 PPG, should not be undermined. And with the combo of Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson, as well as a talented and young supporting cast, the Knicks could give the Sixers a run for their money.
Joel Embiid has been on another level this year. Winning the scoring title, he’s one of the most dominant players in the NBA. Averaging 33.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, and 1.7 BPG, Embiid solidified his MVP case after a 52-point performance against the Celtics in the regular season. With that, he became the third center in NBA history to record three 50-point games in a season.
His co-star James Harden has fulfilled his role by being the primary playmaker. He’s taken a step back on the scoring end to help facilitate the offense and create opportunities for his teammates. In the regular season, he led the league in assists, posting 10.7 APG along with 21 PPG and 6.1 RPG.
Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris are the leading scorers in the playoffs for Philadelphia, averaging 21.8 and 20.3 PPG, respectively. The pair are shooting efficiently from the field and have provided offensive sparks when needed most. Both are also shooting over 50% from beyond the arc.
Their biggest concern is Embiid’s injury and how they’ll survive a series against the Celtics without him. He suffered a sprained right knee after he attempted to block a shot in Game 3 against the Nets. He missed the next match of the series, and his status remains uncertain. This season he averaged 36.8 PPG and 11.8 RPG against Boston, but he’s just 1-8 against them in the playoffs. Paul Reed is likely to continue starting if Embiid is out.
The Celtics have proven their ability to thrive on both ends of the court, while the Sixers have displayed some issues offensively. Last postseason Harden struggled to make shots, and he’s already shown some signs of the same problem against the Nets. Across four games, he posted 23, 8, 21, and 17 points. Harden has found other ways to contribute, primarily through playmaking, but he’ll need to shoot consistently in the next rounds.
The Last Word On If The Philadelphia 76ers Can Make A Finals Run
The main obstacle standing in Philadelphia’s way of a Finals run is Boston. This series has the potential to go to six or seven games, but the Celtics hold the edge with home-court advantage, depth, and versatility. Embiid’s health is still up in the air, and without him, their odds of surviving this round are lower. If they somehow upset Boston, they should be able to make the Finals by defeating either New York or Miami in the following round.