Can one of the biggest rivalries in the NBA be reignited on Monday night when the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers tip-off in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the NBA Playoffs?
It feels like in each decade leading up to this epic second round matchup, the Celtics and 76ers have had some sort of beef with one another.
And throughout the years these teams have rolled out rivalry after rivalry, whether it was during the Pierce – Iverson days, the Bird – Dr. J era or the early days of Russell – Chamberlain.
Now we have the what, Tatum – Simmons run? Or Embiid – Horford saga?
Either way both teams have their pack of studs amped up and ready go as the East’s #2 seeded Celtics will welcome the #3 seeded 76ers to the TD Garden on Monday night for Game 1.
NBA Playoffs: Celtics And 76ers Semifinals Schedule
The 76ers will be rolling into Boston coming off a 4-1 series win over the (#6) Miami Heat and having not played since last Tuesday’s Game 5 win.
Just as the Celtics are coming off of a lengthy seven-game series against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the (#7) Milwaukee Bucks, in which they finished up on Saturday night with a, 112-96, Game 7 win.
This series will feature two prominent rookies in Jayson Tatum and Ben Simmons. And two “big men” who can bang the boards and finish at the rim in Al Horford and Joel Embiid.
The Celtics will be without super star guard Kyrie Irving and forward Daniel Theis, with no one currently listed on the Sixers’ injury report.
But the C’s could be without rising star Jaylen Brown, who’s listed as ‘doubtful‘ for Game 1 after suffering an apparent hamstring injury during the second quarter of Saturday’s Game 7 against the Bucks.
Pesky defender and guard Marcus Smart returned to the C’s lineup in Game 5 against the Bucks, after missing some time after undergoing thumb surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.
Both teams matchup fairly well, but the Celtics have a slight edge in most categories coming into the post season.
So lets see where the Celts and Sixers stack up with the rest of the NBA to finish the regular season:
✔️ Sixers: 7th with points-per-game at 109.8.
- Celtics: 20th in points-per-game with 104.
Note: Points per game since Kyrie Irving went out with his ailing knee on March 11 (15 games): 102.1 PPG (-1.9), without double-overtime 100.9 (-3.1).
✔ Sixers: 8th in field goal shooting percentage at 47.2 percent.
- Celtics: 21st in field goal shooting percentage with 45 percent.
✔ Celtics: 2nd in three-point shooting percentage at 37.7 percent.
- Sixers: 10th with a 36.9 three-point shooting percentage.
✔ Celtics: 17th in free throw shooting percentage at 77.1 percent.
- Sixers: 23rd in free throw shooting percentage at 75.2 percent.
✔ Sixers: 1st in rebounds-per-game at 47.4.
- Celtics: 8th in rebounds-per-game at 44.5.
✔ Celtics: 1st in defensive rating at 101.5.
- Sixers: 3rd in defensive rating at 102.
✔ Celtics: 3rd in points against per game at 100.4.
- Sixers: 11th in points against per game at 105.3.
✔ Sixers: Lowest opponent field goal shooting percentage at 43.4 percent.
- Celtics: 2nd lowest opponent field goal shooting percentage at 44 percent.
✔ Celtics: Lowest opponent three-point shooting percentage at 33.9 percent.
- Sixers: 2nd lowest opponent three-point shooting percentage at 34.2 percent.
After the opening round of the playoffs, the Sixers are leading the NBA in points-per-game (114.2) and rebounds-per-game (50), but they’re committing more turnovers-per-game (16) than any other team.
Both teams are shooting a shade over 44 percent from the field and 36 percent from three.
In four regular season games, the Celtics took the season-series, 3-1, against their Eastern Conference foes.
Boston won the first three games by average of 10.6 points, with the Sixers taking their final matchup, 89-80, at the TD Garden.
In four regular season games against the Celtics, Simmons averaged 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists to go along with 2.3 steals. He shot a favorable 47.6 percent shooting from the field, but he didn’t attempt a single three-pointer against the C’s.
The Sixers were without Embiid in one matchup against the Celtics, but through three games he averaged a double-double with 17.3 points and 13.3 rebounds, plus 4.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.6 blocks. He shot 37.6 percent from the field and went 1-for-12 from deep.
Since Smart’s return to the C’s lineup in Game 5, he’s averaging 6.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists-per-game in 27.6 minutes, while shooting a measly 26.1 percent from the field.
Smart’s defense is still showing up in the stat sheet as he’s averaging 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks-per-game for the C’s.
The young bucks of the Celtics like Tatum, Brown and Terry Rozier III have been solid throughout the first seven games of the playoffs. While Marcus Morris is making his presence felt in many ways on both ends of the floor.
But it’s been Horford who has really taken over for the Celtics, leading the way with 18.1 points-per-game on 55.8 percent shooting from the field. In addition to snagging 8.7 rebounds-per-game, to go with 3.3 assists and 1.4 blocks.
The Celtics dominated the boards against the Bucks, out-rebounding them 339-to-306 for the series, but don’t expect the same against the big ole 76ers.
Both teams shoot the ball fairly well, while locking things down on the defensive end of floor.
So be aware that this series should feature few high scoring games, coupled with some low scoring affairs.
Philly has been on roll since mid-March, winning 16-straight before the start of the playoffs, and are a 20-1 combined over their last 21.
Boston has their work cut for them, but there’s no indication that this series won’t last at least four games.
It’s probably safe to that whoever wins this series will take it in six or seven games.
And New England Patriots from all over the world are more than likely rooting for the Celtics to knock off the Sixers for some sort on redemption for losing Super Bowl LII to the Philadelphia Eagles back in February.
Oh how sweet it would be if the Celtics can send the Sixers packing as they head to the Eastern Conference Finals.
More On The NBA Playoffs:
The conference semifinals series are scheduled for April 30/May 1.
The conference finals series are scheduled for May 15/May 16 but could be moved up to May 13/May 14.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals is scheduled for May 31 with a Game 7 on June 17 if necessary.
UP NEXT: The #2 Boston Celtics (55-27/0-0) will welcome the #3 Philadelphia 76ers (52-30/0-0) to the TD Garden on Monday night for Game 1 of the Semifinals in the NBA Playoffs. Catch the call of the game with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell, live on 100.7 WZLX. Pre-game coverage begins at 7:30 p.m., with tip-off set for 8:00 p.m.
— By John ‘The Dude’ Hardiman, 985TheSportsHub.com
John Hardiman is a Digital Producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for John? Hit him up on Twitter @HardiDude or e-mail him at email@example.com.
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