The 3-seeded Celtics will take on a Ben Simmons-less 6-seeded 76ers squad in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs beginning this Monday. Despite losing one of their best players, the Sixers are a dangerous matchup for the C’s and should not be taken lightly. The Sixers still have three All-Star caliber players in Embiid, Harris, and Horford, along with a big advantage in size. With that being said, here are the keys to a series victory for your Boston Celtics.
The most effective way to limit the All-NBA center is to make him a jump shooter, and not allow him to impose his will inside. When Embiid is engaged, he’s nearly impossible to stop, and can wreck a series. Daniel Theis will obviously get the majority of minutes on the seven footer, but we should also expect a hefty dose of Enes Kanter. Despite Kanter’s lack of defensive prowess, he is the biggest body the Celtics have, and has the best shot of defending Embiid in the post. Expect double teams and hedges on almost every post up opportunity Embiid gets.
At the power forward position, the Celtics have a sizable advantage offensively. My guess would be that Horford will start on Gordon Hayward. Hayward should frankly eat Horford alive. Horford cannot keep up with Hayward (or Brown and Tatum) on the dribble, and won’t be able to stay with him on pull-ups. The Celtics will need to exploit Horford when he’s playing the four if they want to win the series.
Efficiency From Deep
With Horford and Embiid clogging up the paint, opportunities at the rim aren’t going to come nearly as easy or often as usual. The Celtics are going to get plenty of opportunities from the three point line, and they’ll need to bury them in order to take down Embiid and co.
Limit the Three Ball
Despite Philly’s reputation as a team that can’t shoot from beyond the arc, they have six rotation players in Harris, Horford, Milton, Korkmaz, Burks, and Thybulle that shoot over 35% from the three point line. Perimeter defense will be key, especially rotations from the doubles and hedges on Embiid and Horford in the post. Smart, along with the three starting wings, will have the biggest roles in this matter.
Even though the Sixers lost some size with the Simmons injury, the smallest player in their starting lineup is still 6’5″ in Richardson and Milton. The Celtics will likely have Kemba guard Richardson, and he will need a lot of help from the wings in order to contain the versatile guard. Once again, quick rotations will be key to hiding Kemba on defense.
Although this won’t be an easy series, I still like their chances considering the way they finished off the regular season. Boston just has too many ways to score, and are versatile enough on the defensive end to limit Embiid, especially without Simmons. Celtics in 5