Eastern Conference Finals: 1st seed Boston Celtics vs. 3rd seed Philadelphia 76ers
This is going to be an incredible series. You have two MVP favorites in Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum going at it, in the brightest lights of the Eastern Conference. Philly is back in the ECF for the first time since 2001. The Celtics are back in the ECF for the seemingly 500th time in the past 10 seasons. This is a rivalry series. Philly and Boston go together as well as fish paste and chocolate ice cream.
The Sixers have not been able to get over the Celtics bump for quite some time. In fact, each of the past five playoff series between the two came out with the Celtics advancing. That's a tough pill to swallow for Philly fans (I'd know I've lived in both Boston and Philly). The matchup that is most intriguing to me when looking at this series is going to be Maxey vs everyone. How are the Celtics going to slow Maxey down? I say this because you can ultimately forfeit up to 40 points per night for Embiid and expect that he will be scoring near that number on most nights. With that being said, the Celtics will have to stop the co-star if it wants to have a chance in this series.
Luckily for Boston, the C's have two very capable players they can throw at Maxey, in Derrick White and Jrue Holiday...not to mention Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. How well will the guards of Boston defend the up-and-coming Tyrese Maxey? These two teams just went at it in the Semifinals last season, and it was essentially the emergence of Tyrese Maxey that kept the Sixers in the series. Long story short, the Celtics can make quick work of the Sixers if they are able to limit Maxey's production.
On the opposite end, what can the Sixers really do to stop this offensive attack from the Celtics? Tatum can sit back and wait until the second half on most nights because Jaylen Brown is usually setting the tone in the first quarter, establishing his footprint on the game. Kristaps Porzingis' outside shot keeps bigs away from the basket, allowing guards Derrick White and Jrue Holiday and wings, Tatum and Brown to cut and drive to the basket. This is a tough offense to stop for any team.
The Sixers have a pair of defensive-minded guards who they'll hope stop the onslaught that is the Boston Celtics offense, but De'Anthony Melton is listed at 6-foot-2 and so is 35-year-old Patrick Beverly. They are both defensive dogs, but can one truly expect them to win every matchup against Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, or Kristaps Porzingis? Because you know the Celtics will be looking at getting the favorable mismatches. I think this series comes down to star talent.
The Sixers have two and the Celtics have five. I think that there is a talent imbalance and I expect the Boston Celtics to exploit it and come away with the Larry Bird Trophy (given to the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals)
Prediction: Boston Celtics win 4-3