Sixers vs Celtics: Game 1 Preview
October 23, 2019 seems like forever ago. The Philadelphia 76ers opened up their season at home against the Boston Celtics. The Sixers signed Al Horford from Boston and got Josh Richardson from the Miami Heat. Expectations were at an all time high. This team, we were told, was built for the playoffs.
The first game of the season brought “Battle of East Favorites” headlines as the Sixers faced the Celtics at home. Ben Simmons scored 24. Joel Embiid had 15 points and 13 rebounds. The 76ers won 107-93.
Ultimately, the season would not pan out as envisioned. The Sixers under performed and injuries popped up consistently throughout the season. The national media continued to run stories about locker room troubles and issues surrounding our two young All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. By February, Embiid was hurt, Ben Simmons was hurt, and with 16 games left in the season, the Sixers were without their two stars and trying to maintain pace in the Eastern Conference before the playoffs.
Then, as we all know, the season was cancelled. As the world quarantined, major sports leagues were doing their best to devise a plan to return to play. The NBA decided to resume play inside the bubble in Disney World. There would be 8 seeding games followed by the playoffs.
Expectations again, were through the roof. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid were healthy. During the scrimmage games, the 76ers were dominant. Simmons was shooting. Joel Embiid was doing Zoom interviews claiming he loved Ben and wanted to spend his career playing alongside him and things were looking up. A healthy 76ers team were seemingly ready to make a championship run.
Then, the 76ers bubble came crashing down. Ben Simmons hurt his left knee and would have to leave the bubble for surgery. The Sixers finished out their seeding games with starting lineups that consisted of bench players. At one point during the seeding games, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford were all out due to injury. The Sixers we knew before the world shut down were back and the team finished as the 6th seed in the East with a 1st round matchup against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Playoff Bubble.
PERIMETER DEFENSE WILL DEFINE THIS SERIES.
The Sixers won the regular season series 3-1 over Boston. This included a road win, which obviously were extremely hard to come by for the 10-24 traveling Sixers.
Inside the paint will not be an area of concern for the 76ers against the Celtics. Joel Embiid will be able to dominate against a weak Boston interior. Embiid scored 38 points in a December matchup. The Celtics, who were previously unbeaten at home had tons of trouble finding anyone on their team that was able to stop Embiid down low. Neither big man in Boston is a high-level scorer or floor spacer. Joel will get his points and post touches.
The concern is on the outside and with the Celtics’ guards. The Sixers will need to find a way to slow down Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jalen Brown in order to advance past the first round. They will rely on Josh Richardson, Shake Milton, Alec Burks, and Tobias Harris to do so. This is something they can do, even without Ben Simmons.
During the home opener, Josh Richardson spent the majority of his time on Kemba Walker and held him to 4-18 shooting on the night. Matisse Thybulle has incredible length and recovery speed outside on the perimeter. Across 3 games, Thybulle had defended Kemba Walker the most out of any 76ers player this season. During the 10+ minutes on Kemba, Tisse held him to 4/12 shooting and 2/8 from three with 4 blocks.
The biggest piece that the Sixers will have to make up for his the dominant work that Ben Simmons put in against Jayson Tatum. In December, we saw a mixture of defensive matchups against the Celtics’ guards resulting in Tatum shooting 5-18, Brown 3-9, and Walker 8-21. Those matchups consisted of Mike Scott and Thybulle primarily on Brown, and Richardson splitting time with Matisse on Kemba.
Tobias Harris and Al Horford will also need to slide out and cover the perimeter. No surprise here as Horford specifically will most likely see most of his defensive minutes logged against Gordon Hayward while Embiid throws Theis around down low like a rag doll.
The Sixers offensively will run through Joel Embiid but he will need a strong supporting cast to help him carry the load. Tobias Harris has been great and Josh Richardson put up a career high in the bubble against the Rockets scoring 34 points. Alec Burks has been the team’s biggest surprise in Disney. He’s currently averaging 15 points per game, shooting 57% from the field and 57% from beyond the arch.
This Sixers team can beat the Boston Celtics.
Are they better without Ben Simmons? Of course not. Only idiots on Twitter who don’t know anything about basketball and spit out “hot takes” to a cult following that goes by a man’s first name beginning with “R” think so. Ben Simmons will be greatly missed in this series but that doesn’t mean the Sixers are dead in the water.
Joel Embiid will own the paint. The guards will show up defensively. The Sixers will rely on Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, and strong play from Josh Richardson, Alec Burks, and Shake Milton to beat the Celtics in 6 games.
— Did The Sixers Win? (@DidTheSixersWin) August 17, 2020