Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics: A preview of the future of the East

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 18: Ben Simmons #25 and Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers walk off the court during a time out in the second half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on January 18, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 18: Ben Simmons #25 and Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers walk off the court during a time out in the second half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on January 18, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images) /

Breaking down the intruiging second-round playoff series between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers

Coming into the 2017-18 season, the Philadelphia 76ers were thought of as a team that was a year away. The 76ers could possibly sneak into the playoffs but they wouldn’t be looked at as a real threat.

After winning 52 games including their final 16 of the regular season, the 76ers entered the playoffs looking like a viable threat to LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Philadelphia then defeated the Miami Heat 4-1 in a series that was tightly contested and physical. The 76ers are looking more and more like the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia’s opponent, the Boston Celtics, at one point seemed like the favorite in the East but after losing Kyrie Irving for the season, Boston has struggled mightily to find consistent offense.

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The Celtics are coming off a 7 game series win over the Milwaukee Bucks. The home team won every game in that series. For the Celtics this series will come down to how much offense they can find as the 76ers have several players who can score and showcased that depth in their first round series win.

Regular Season Series Recap

Celtics won 3-1

Oct. 20: Celtics 102, 76ers 92

The Celtics picked up their first win of the season and it was their 2nd game after the horrific Gordon Hayward injury. The Celtics used a big fourth quarter to win the game as they outscored Philadelphia 33-20. Boston was led by Kyrie Irving’s 21 points while Philadelphia was led by J.J. Redick’s 19.

Nov. 30: Celtics 108, 76ers 97

Kyrie Irving goes for 36 points on 12-21 shooting to lead the Celtics past the 76ers. Al Horford pitched in 21 points and 8 rebounds. Boston led by 6 after the first quarter and kept the resilient 76ers from taking the lead. Philadelphia was led by Dario Saric’s 18 points.

Jan. 11: Celtics 114, 76ers 103

Playing in London the Celtics outscored the 76ers by 20 in the second half including 37-22 in the third quarter. Philadelphia led at one point by 22 in the second quarter but the lead was down to 9 by halftime.  Jaylen Brown led Boston with 21 while Philadelphia was led by Redick’s 22.

Jan. 18: 76ers 89, Celtics 80

In the final regular season matchup between the two teams Philadelphia was finally able to defeat the Celtics. The 76ers dominated from opening tip and led by 18 going into the fourth. Leading the 76ers was Joel Embiid who scored 26 points along with 16 rebounds while Boston was led by Al Horford’s 14. Kyrie Irving didn’t play.

What the Numbers Say

Stat Celtics   76ers    
Off Rating   105.2107.4
Def Rating101.5102.0

Stats courtesy of NBA Stats and Basketball Reference

The Celtics had Irving in the 3 wins over Philadelphia and they scored at least 102 in those games. In the one meeting without Irving they struggled immensely and only put up 80 points. This series would’ve been great if Irving was available but he’s out for the playoffs and that should give the young 76ers squad a huge boost in confidence.

Big matchups to watch

Joel Embiid vs Al Horford

For Boston to have a shot at winning this series they will need Horford to contain Embiid. Unlike Whiteside, who struggles to guard Embiid, Horford is one of the league’s most versatile defenders and can matchup with Embiid. Here are Embiid’s numbers against Horford this season:

Oct 20: 3-7 shooting for 6 points

Nov. 30: Embiid DNP

Jan. 11: No matchup data, Embiid was 6-17 for 15 points

Jan. 18: 2-7 shooting for 6 points, 2 turnovers

Horford was a much better defender on Embiid then Aron Baynes who guarded Embiid the most. If Horford can keep Embiid locked up like he did in most of their matchups then Boston could have a chance if they find some offense.

Jaylen Brown vs Ben Simmons

Arguably the best individual matchup in this series, Brown vs Simmons features two of the games most exciting, young players going at each other. In the only matchup this season that didn’t feature Irving, Brown went 2-7 for 6 points while be guarded by Simmons. Brown and the Celtics have come a long way since they lost Irving for the season so it’s hard to take the numbers from that one game too seriously. In the Celtics 4-3 series win over Milwaukee, Brown averaged 17.9 PPG while shooting 46.7%. Boston will need him even better vs Philadelphia.

Must Read: Boston Celtics: A Formula To Beat The 76ers?

Expectation and Prediction

Boston is one of the league’s best defenses and has one of the game’s best head coaches in Brad Stevens. Because of that it’s hard to see Philadelphia dominating this series easily but with Boston not having Irving where will the scoring come from? Jaylen Brown has a hamstring injury that will cost him at least game one.

With him out the Celtics will need big contributions from Horford and Tatum but even that might not be enough. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are healthy and playing great basketball and that is why Philadelphia is the favorite. They have the healthier team and Boston just doesn’t have the offense to keep pace.

Prediction: 76ers in 6