If the seeding in the Eastern Conference remains the same through the eight game ‘warm up’ down in Orlando before the postseason begins, the Sixers will face the Boston Celtics in the first round.
With the team’s recent playoff history facing Boston, I can see why fans would be worried about a potential matchup with Brad Stevens’ squad. But, this Sixers team is better top to bottom and they’ve had the Celtics number all season, even though they’ve been wildly inconsistent throughout most of the year.
Philly went 3-1 against Boston this year, winning by an average of 10 points in each of their three victories. Ben Simmons in particular did very well in his games against Boston, averaging 18.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists in those four matchups. His points and rebounding averages against the Celtics are better than his season averages.
Joel Embiid also had some superb performances against Boston this season, having arguably his best outing of the season in their December 12 matchup, posting 38 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in the win.
Both Ben and Joel should be fully healthy and re-energized when the season opens back up, so they both should dominate their matchups if they end up facing Boston.
There’s just no way Enes Kanter or Daniel Theis can hang with Embiid through a seven game series, especially if Brett Brown staggers his and Al Horford’s minutes. Horford was the one hurdle Embiid never overcame when facing Boston. But now that he’s on the Sixers, the Celtics have nobody to slow down JoJo.
The only thing that could potentially hold the Sixers back from beating this Celtics squad is of course the lopsided coaching matchup. Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in the league, and he was essentially the only reason his team upended the Sixers in their playoff matchup two years ago.
Brown would be wise to implement some nuanced looks heading into this series since both teams are so familiar with one another. That’s something that Stevens has probably already schemed up in his head.
Sometimes it feels like a tall order to ask something that simple out of Brown. Hopefully the talent discrepancy between these two teams can keep Brown from having to make tough decisions.
Although the Sixers have under performed a lot this season, a playoff matchup against a team they’ve dominated this year could give them some much needed momentum throughout the rest of the postseason.