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2023 Eastern Conference Second-Round Preview: Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers

Celtics 76ers Playoffs
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2023 Eastern Conference Second-Round Preview: Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers

It seems like it’s becoming a trend now. The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers have once again met in the playoffs. This matchup has gained some attention over the last few years with many great games and moments, making it slowly become a rivalry. Now with both teams having their best teams in years and looking for revenge, who will win this matchup? Let’s take a look at why each team can win this Eastern Conference Second-Round series, following up with a prediction at the end.

*Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday, May 1st in Boston*

Why the Boston Celtics can win this series:

The Celtics come into this matchup after a scary-close series with the Atlanta Hawks in round one. Now, they have a date with the well-rested 76ers. But what can push the Celtics over the edge in this one?

Center depth

To start off, the Celtics match up extremely well with the 76ers. With Robert Williams and Al Horford healthy, the Celtics have the depth to battle against banged-up Joel Embiid. Williams and Horford have been the reasons behind the Celtics’ legendary defense over the past two seasons. Last series, Williams has been playing his best basketball to date. He has been extremely efficient and a defensive anchor with seven blocks in seven games against the Hawks. He has been their X-Factor.

The Two J’s are an Elite Duo

As we’ve seen in the last few years, Celtics superstars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have lit the NBA on fire. Brown and Tatum are the core of the Celtics’ offense. If one doesn’t show up, the other one will. But if the Celtics want to win, Tatum needs to step up his game, as he became sloppy with his shot selection and 3-point attempts. But, outside of their flaws, Brown and Tatum match up well against the 76ers. Brown will probably match up against James Harden at shooting guard and Tatum will face off against Tobias Harris, two below-average and slow defenders.

Take Smart out in Crunch time, Celtics will win

I know it may sound crazy to take out your former defensive player of the year at any time in a playoff game, but trust me, the Celtics need this to win. Marcus Smart has been the motor for the Celtics his entire career, but he can be too sporadic at times. Smart’s shot selection has shot them out of games before, and playing the 76ers, they can’t afford to have Smart do that. Yes, he is an outstanding defensive player, but with all the added bench depth, the Celtics have to turn Smart away. Go to a guy like Derrick White, Malcolm Brogdon or even Payton Pritchard.

Why the Philadelphia 76ers can win the series:

Joel Embiid is on a different planet

Embiid has been in a different universe this season for the 76ers, leading them to the third seed in the Eastern Conference. If there is one player that can lead them over this non-finals hump, it is him. On the season, the MVP favorite is averaging 33 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists on 55 percent shooting. Not to mention, Embiid is crucial on both ends of the floor. He is averaging one steal and almost two blocks per game. If there is one man who can counteract the Celtics’ big-man depth, it’s him.

Doc Rivers has much-needed playoff experience

Rivers has coached the 76ers for three years now and has led them to the playoffs every single year. But this year feels different for the city of brotherly love, and a big thanks to that it Doc Rivers. The 76ers rank among the top-7 teams in the league in terms of defensive efficiency and opponents’ points per game. Rivers has built this team from a lousy playoff opponent in the past to a series playoff contender now. He is the better coach in this series, and usually, that’s what it comes down to in close-call matchups.

Rest, Rest, Rest

Unlike the Celtics, the 76ers have been able to dissect every ounce of the Celtics with their time off. Philadelphia has kept itself well-rested and almost fully healthy. While the Celtics have only gotten around four days of true rest, Philadelphia hasn’t played a game since April 22nd. That is over a week in rest, and come playoff time in the NBA, that can be the difference maker in a matchup.

Prediction:

Outside of the rest and coaching, Boston has the better team hands down. They have been the most complete team in all of the NBA for the past two seasons now. But in the playoffs, anything can happen. We could see the 76ers, who played against the Nets in the first round, or we could see the team that collapses every time during the playoffs. On the other hand, we could see the game one Celtics, who were up by 30 at halftime, or the one in Games 3 and 5, who laid an absolute egg against the Hawks. But I got to give it to the Celtics in this series. They have been the more complete team this entire year, and with Embiid being hurt, it could get ugly.

My Prediction: Celtics win 4-3 (seven games) over Philadelphia

***

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