Sean McBryan previews the 76ers’ Playoff matchup with the Boston Celtics and makes his prediction’s ahead of Game 1 on Monday.
The Philadelphia 76ers’ playoff opponent has been set. The Sixers face the rival Boston Celtics in the first round, and first ever, NBA bubble playoffs. Boston has secured the third seed and Philadelphia the sixth in the Eastern Conference.
The best-of-seven series tips off Monday, August 17 at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.
FanDuel Sportbook Odds:
Series: Sixers outright (+350). Celtics outright (-480). Sixers in four (+3200). Sixers in five (+1400). Sixers in six (+900). Sixers in seven (+650). Celtics in four (+500). Celtics in five (+300). Celtics in six (+330). Celtics in seven (+480).
Futures: Sixers to win championship (+6500). Celtics to win championship (+1700). Celtics to win the Eastern Conference (+550). Sixers to win Eastern Conference (+3500).
Philadelphia 76ers Preview
The two teams are trending in different directions.
Philadelphia finished bubble play with a 4-4 record and 43-30 record overall.
Injuries have mounted with Ben Simmons presumably going down for the season after getting surgery on his knee. Joel Embiid twice left games with various ailments.
Embiid has been great when on the court with bubble averages of 30.3 points and 13.5 rebounds excluding the two games he left with injury and the meaningless 134-96 finale victory over the Rockets. He also didn’t play in the loss to the Phoenix Suns.
The Sixers’ success, or lack thereof, against Boston relies on Embiid dominating the paint. The Celtics no longer have Al Horford, who has had a lackluster year in Philly, to guard him. That duty now falls on Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter or Robert Williams with the clear advantage going to Embiid. Still, if you want to bet on Philly, you’ll have to hope Tobias Harris, Horford, Josh Richardson and/or Shake Milton step up in a big way.
The series follows the normal format of two home games for Boston, two for Philadelphia, game five if needed at Boston, game six at Philadelphia and game seven at Boston. Except all of the games will be played in Florida now. The home-court advantage held before the bubble is gone. For the Sixers, this is critical. The team went 29-2 at home and 10-24 on the road before all games moved to Disney World.
One bright point for the Sixers falls in the 3-1 record they held over the Celtics in the regular season.
Boston Celtics Preview
Let’s move on to Boston. The Celtics have gone 5-3 in the bubble and 48-24 overall.
Boston’s health has improved after the hiatus, too, with Kemba Walker getting back to full strength and shooting well from the floor. Jayson Tatum continues to develop into a star. Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart are capable of playing multiple positions.
Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics Pick
Ultimately, the series will come down to the Sixers’ height versus the Celtics’ athleticism. Unfortunately, Philadelphia’s height experiment has been rocky and resulted in a playoff seeding much lower than expected going into season. I’ll go with the Celtics in six.
Sorry for the pessimistic prediction, Sixers fans. Hey, at least Matisse Thybulle’s vlog is sweet.