Celtics Have History and Skill on Their Side vs. Sixers


After a strong showing in the Peach State against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 to advance to the second round of the playoffs, the Celtics have proven that the road to getting back to the NBA Finals is all but inevitable.

The Philadelphia 76ers are now standing in front of the Celtics with Game 1 set for Monday, May 1 at TD Garden in Boston and if we are going on past history, the luck is with the guys wearing green and white.

The History

Joel Embiid said it best: “This is not a rivalry, they always kick our ass.”

Philly has not beaten the Celtics in a playoffs series since the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals and they also have not won more than one game in a series since 2012.

The last time these teams squared off in the playoffs was in 2020 where the C’s swept them in the first round.

In nine playoff games against Philly, Jayson Tatum has averaged 25.1 points on 50.6% shooting, 6.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 blocks per game. In 2020, Jaylen Brown shot the ball at a 45% clip averaging 21.5 points in their four-game sweep versus the 76ers.

Not only does the writing on the wall say that Boston should be able to take care of Philly, but it also says in big bold letters: Embiid cannot stay healthy down the stretch.

76ers superstar center missed Game 4 of their first-round matchup against the Brooklyn Nets with a sprained LCL.

Embiid has been playing at an MVP-caliber level all year, but availability is the best ability. That is something the Kansas product has yet to overcome thus far.

Since 2018, Embiid has been listed on the injury report in every single playoff run — and in most cases — misses at least one game.

Embiid’s injuries during his playoff career have consisted of torn ligaments in his right thumb, concussions, orbital bone fractures, knee ligament tears, sprained ankles, knee soreness and illness.

Although the 76ers did not need Embiid to sweep the Nets, they certainly need a healthy Embiid to have any shot at advancing to the ECF.

Mismatch City

Much like other superstars, there is really no way of stopping a guy like Jayson Tatum and in the 76ers case, they have no one that can defend him for a full 48.

Sure, P.J. Tucker is known for being the defensive sacrifice in years past, but age might be catching up for the 37-year-old, however. Tucker finished the year with a 116.2 defensive rating which goes for the worst of his career.

What if the 76ers see this and put a more athletic forward in front of JT? Well, that would mean Tobias Harris would be the next casualty in line. Although Harris finished with a better defensive rating than Tucker, he still finished higher than the league average at 113.7.

Tatum — averaging 21 points per game against the 76ers this season — should have a field day with whichever forward is put on him.

Jaylen Brown has also stepped back into his comfort zone as of late. After pouring in 29 points in their Game 1 win versus Atlanta, Brown had two quiet performances as he was unable to score more than 20 points in games two and three.

Was it the hand? Was it the mask? JB put those doubters back into the shadows, scoring an efficient 30+ points the next three games.

Besides Tatum and Brown, Derrick White and Marcus Smart have proven they can step up when needed and the matchup against Philly will only make them better.

Although Smart and White were blowing by guards like Trae Young — who is not known for his defense — Philly is going to have the same problem defending the Celtics guards.

James Harden‘s defensive rating this season was an atrocious 113.2 and Tyrese Maxey wasn’t any better, finishing the season with a 116.8 defensive rating.

Sticking To What They Know

There have been some instances in this first-round series versus the Hawks where the C’s defense has been a little shaky which can certainly be worrying as the competition gets harder.

However, the Celtics’ defense has actually been better than last year’s team that made it to the NBA Finals.

Sure, the 76ers have tremendous shooting ability with Harden/Maxey and great post offense through Embiid but if you look at their series versus Brooklyn, the C’s have nothing to worry about.

Other than Game 1, Philly struggled to score against a team whom were middle of the pack in defensive rating in the last 15 games of the regular season.

The 76ers will more than likely try to switch an undersized player like Marcus Smart onto Embiid in the post. However, Smart knows how to front a bigger player better than any other guard in the league.

Nets forward Royce O’Neale did this on multiple occasions when guarding Embiid.

Brooklyn also gave them trouble when their lengthiest players were on the court and we all know that Mazzulla loves playing Al Horford and Robert Williams III together down the stretch of games.


A fully healthy C’s roster that has made leaps and bounds of improvements from last year’s team taking on an injury-riddled Embiid, history is ready to repeat itself one more time.

Tatum and Jaylen Brown have seemed to be locked in. White, Smart and Malcolm Brogdon have been arguably the best backcourt in the entire NBA.

This Celtics team matches up great on both sides of the ball against the 76ers and Joe Mazzulla will have his guys locked and loaded.

See you soon, Philadelphia.

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About Eric Tartaglia

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