Celtics-76ers first look: What the battle for the East heavyweights could decide


Since Boston Celtics And philadelphia 76ers 2022-23 NBA Season OpenedThe two rivals seemed destined to meet in the playoffs.

Here we are.

Sent Pesky After The Celtics atlanta hawks Thursday night in Game 6 — and 11 days after the 76ers were swept Brooklyn Nets They will officially face each other in a true clash of the titans in the Eastern Conference semifinals starting Monday night inside Boston’s TD Garden.

Game 1 would be the fifth meeting between them, with Boston winning the season series 3–1. (The average margin of victory was just 5.25 points.) Philly’s only win, however, featured a 52-point, 13-rebound performance. joel embied,

This will be the 22nd time that the Celtics and 76ers face off in a playoff series, the most between any two teams in NBA history after the season. And as both the teams gear up for one of the most anticipated series These playoffs, here’s what could determine who reaches the conference finals, including the health of the MVP favorite, the Celtics’ massive lineup decision and the importance of the Sixers’ guards.

Joel Embiid’s Health

Embiid left Game 3 of the Nets’ sweep of Philadelphia after an awkward fall while trying to counter Nets forward Cameron Johnson’s shot.

Embiid faced sprained the LCL in his right knee In the game, an injury caused him to miss Game 4 against Brooklyn – after which 76ers coach Doc Rivers said Embiid would be “probably 50 percent, at best” to play in Game 1 against Boston.

The 76ers were actively pushing for Atlanta to extend their series with Boston to six games so Embiid could get a few extra days of rest by pushing back the start of the series until Monday. so there’s no doubt that there were lots of happiness when in philadelphia trae young Gave the Hawks a come-from-behind win in Game 5 in dramatic fashion.

Now, it will be a race to get the superstar center back to health — one that he now has a few extra days to run before it all ends. And, of course, there is still the matter of how effective Embiid will be, or if it will be another unfortunately timed playoff injury in a career that many of them have seen.

Earlier this month, Boston saw firsthand what a healthy Embiid could do. He had 52 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists in an April 4 win, scoring more than half of Philadelphia’s points. In that win, Embiid became the second player in NBA history to record 50 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 80% shooting. Wilt Chamberlainwho did it twice.

In four games against Brooklyn, Harden shot just 9-for-34 on 2-point shots. Take away his 5-for-8 performance in Game 3 before he was fouled, and he went 4-for-26 in Games 1, 2 and 4, going really disappointing.

Harden’s numbers were even worse while driving. Harden shot 7-for-30 (23.3%) in the paint against the Nets. According to ESPN Stats & Information Research, among players with at least 25 attempts, this is the worst paint field goal percentage in a single series since play-by-play was first tracked in 1996–97.



Embiid-less 76ers complete series of Nets

The 76ers won Game 4 to take a series sweep over the Nets.

Both Rivers and Harden dismissed his poor shooting, saying that he missed shots that he would normally have hit. But with Brooklyn a lesser version of Boston’s tall, athletic, switchable defense, Harden’s struggles could become a significant concern.

During the regular season, the Celtics switched 73 times when Harden was the ball handler for on-ball screens, their most instances against a single player with spectrum tracking per second. Harden really excelled on these plays, averaging 1.17 points per chance. (The Celtics averaged 0.95 points per chance when they switched against on-ball screens in the regular season, which ranked in the top 10 league wide.)

Boston’s 3s

The easiest way to tell how a game is going for the Celtics this season is to look at their 3-point numbers.

When the Celtics hit at least 40% of their 3s, their record was 34–2 in the regular season and playoffs. When they were below that mark, it was 27–24.

Given that Boston made 10 more 3-point attempts than Philadelphia during the regular season, the Celtics likely already have the edge in perimeter scoring in this series. So if Boston can have some hot-shooting nights, it will be an uphill battle for Philadelphia.

Will Boston be big or small?

The Celtics have one of the deepest teams in the league, which has impressed coach Joe Mazzulla with the variety of ways he deploys his army. And entering this series there is no bigger question than whether Boston will play big or small against Philadelphia and have their mountain in the middle in Embiid.

marcus smart, jaylen brown, jason tatum And al horford Off as the start against Philadelphia. But will Majulla go with another big player? Robert Williams III – as Boston did at its best last year – or a little derrick white — This is how the Celtics played against Atlanta.

Two big players on the court can help contain Embiid, but a defense-first Williams will let Embiid do the rest on defense. Playing small with White could force Embiid to roam a lot, even if it makes it more difficult for the Celtics to guard Embiid. Which way Majulla goes, and how Philadelphia adjusts, will be closely watched.

Can maxi go against boston?

In its third season, tyreese maxi Has proven to be one of the most explosive young scoring guards in the NBA.

However, the Celtics have been his kryptonite.

Maxi is a combined 17-for-48 in four meetings with Boston this season, including 9-for-32 in the last three contests. The Celtics have tall, rangy defenders to attack Maxi, including Smart, White and Brown, and can wear him down defensively.

The Celtics limited Maxi to nine transition shots—he made four in the team’s four regular season games. Maxi, among players with at least 100 such attempts, ranks top-10 in effective field goal percentage in transition per second across the spectrum this season.

Matt Williams of ESPN Stats & Info contributed to this story.

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