Preview: Sixers host the Celtics in South Philly, look to punch their tickets to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001
The Philadelphia 76ers can punch their tickets to the Eastern Conference Finals tonight as they host the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the second round of the playoffs.
The Boston Celtics didn’t think the Sixers were a threat
When the Milwaukee Bucks got upset in the first round of the NBA Playoffs by Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat, the majority of basketball fans thought the Boston Celtics already advanced to the NBA Finals.
The Eastern Conference appeared to be the Celtics’ for the taking as Joel Embiid was injured yet again, this time in Game 3 of the first round against the Brooklyn Nets. All of the sudden the same dark clouds that hovered over the city of Philadelphia for the past four years come playoff time had Sixers fans ready to jump off the Ben Franklin Bridge.
Very few people thought that the Sixers without Embiid, would be able to compete against the Celtics.
Vintage James Harden changed the narrative
However, James Harden delivered a rude awakening to the city of Boston after dropping 45-points in Game 1 to give the Sixers a 1-0 series lead.
Embiid returned in Game 2 but was clearly rusty and “out of sync” after nearly two weeks off thanks to a sprained LCL tendon in his right knee. The Sixers got destroyed in Boston and the series shifted back to Philadelphia tied 1-1.
In Game 3, following Joel Embiid being presented the NBA MVP trophy, James Harden and the rest of the Sixers team failed to show up and the Sixers found themselves with an uphill battle yet again, down 2-1 heading into Game 4.
The Sixers managed to tie the series in an overtime thriller at The Wall in Game 4 as they headed back to Boston for Game 5.
In a pivotal Game 5 at TD Garden, the Sixers finally pieced everything together and destroyed the Celtics on their home court, giving them a commanding 3-2 series lead heading into tonight’s game in South Philadelphia.
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Joel Embiid is back.
The MVP dominated in Game 5, scoring 33 points with seven rebounds to guide the Sixers in a wire-to-wire victory. Like we said going into Game 5, someone outside of James Harden and Embiid would have to step up if the Sixers wanted to win this series, and Tyrese Maxey delivered, hitting dagger after dagger in the second half to finish the night with 30 points.
James Harden, after already notching two 40+ point games this series was masterful in Game 5 and served more as a floor general for the Sixers while adding 17 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds.
Tobias Harris scored a very efficient 16 points while grabbing 11 rebounds as well. On the night, the Sixers limited the Celtics to just 39.8% shooting from the floor.
The Sixers shot 50.6% from the floor and dominated the Celtics on the glass, ending the night with a +13 rebound advantage while outscoring Boston 15-5 in fast-break points.
Tonight, the Sixers will now look to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001 and are presented with the perfect opportunity to close out the series against the Boston Celtics in front of a sold out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center.
Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers – Game 6 – Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia, PA – 7:30PM EST
|Boston Celtics||-2.5 (-110)||-138||O 212.5|
|Philadelphia 76ers||+2.5 (-110)||+118||U 212.5|
The Celtics have been in this position before. After falling behind 3-2 in the 2022 semifinals to the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston won Game 6 on the road before steamrolling Giannis and company in Game 7 at home.
Regardless, I don’t really give a shit about the Boston Celtics and what they were able to do against a Milwaukee Bucks team who finished first in the East this season only to get knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by the Miami Heat.
None of that matters. At all.
The Sixers are clicking right now. Over the past two games, we have seen this team return to form and start playing like they did throughout the 2022-23 regular season.
That is horrible news for the Boston Celtics who honestly, are extremely lucky it didn’t happen before Game 5. Plus, when you have veteran leadership like this from PJ Tucker, this team is just built differently this year.
The Sixers should win tonight and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was another performance similar to Game 5.
Joel Embiid is too much for the Boston Celtics to handle already, and if they want to focus on slowing him down, the Sixers now have Harden, Maxey, and Harris locked in and playing their best basketball of the series.