Still drooling over here. If the NBA decided to come back now and start the playoffs immediately, we’d basically know what the seeding would be for each conference. Fortunately, the League was gracious enough to stop play while the Celtics are the No. 3 seed and the Sixers are No. 6 seed in the East. The stars are aligned for perhaps the most anticipated first-round matchup we’d have this season. Let’s take an initial look at the series and how it might shake out.
Celtics vs. Sixers series breakdown
Celtics record: 43-21
Sixers record: 39-26
Season series: PHI 3-1
Despite this being a 3-6 matchup, these may end up being the two most evenly matched teams in the first round. The Sixers have dominated the Celtics most of the season, though the last time these two teams met it was pretty lopsided in Boston’s favor. The key to this matchup is the fact that the Sixers are going to get a 100% healthy Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid into their lineup. This makes Philly more of a top 4 seeded team that is under-seeded due to the coronavirus break and not getting to finish out the regular season. This is why I seed this as a more even matchup, possibly even favoring the Sixers on the road.
My issue with the Celtics is size. Boston had no answer for Philly’s size up until the last meeting, when the Sixers just came out flat and couldn’t score. I doubt Joel Embiid will lay eggs like that in the playoffs and the Celtics will need to rely on a shorter bench in a 7-game series. This will force situations in which Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward are overmatched by bigs like Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons and Al Horford.
Really, the only way the Celtics keep this series competitive is through defense. Containing Embiid and forcing the Sixers to chuck 3s — which they aren’t good at — is the key for Boston. The Celts have home court, which is big since the Sixers are awful on the road (10-24) while Boston is 23-9 at home. Philly has more talent and should win, but coaching and location are in the Celtics’ favor.
This series would appear destined for seven games. We have four All-Stars in Kemba Walker, Tatum, Embiid and Simmons. Two heated rivals. Some revenge for two seasons ago could be in order. This playoff series would remind your dad of those Celtics-Lakers series or your cousins of those Celtics-Lakers series or just of a more 90s basketball vibe. If I had to pick it today, I’d probably lean the Sixers side given the healing process should pay dividends. This is as close as it gets in the hypothetical first round.