The Celtics and the Sixers are two of the true built for the future teams in the NBA. Now, they face-off in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. With the Celtics so beaten and bruised, it'll be interesting to see how well they can keep up with the Simmons and Embiid led Sixers.
Let's start with the keys to this series. What do the Celtics need to do to beat the Sixers?
Al Horford vsJoel Embiid Matchup:
Horford was HUGE in the series with the Bucks. He stepped up in games that he truly needed to. Now, his matchup with young phenom Joel Embiid is going to be a deciding factor on whether or not the team can pull this series out. Whoever dominates this matchup will give the upper-hand to their team. With Embiid coming off an injury, Horford will have an opportunity to strike and claim dominance within the first few minutes of Game 1. Let's hope he does.
Who Is Going to Cover Ben Simmons?:
Simmons is, without a doubt, the Sixers' most dangerous player. He can score, pass, rebound, and defend. The Celtics will need to figure out who will primarily cover him. Will it be Marcus Smart? Or Semi Ojeleye? Or someone else? We'll have to see. Whoever it may be, they will need to make Simmons take jump-shots. The one lack-luster aspect of his game is his shooting ability. No easy baskets for this guy, clog the lane, and make him shoot it.
Brad Stevens is clearly one of the top coaches in the entire league, that much we know. However, what flies under the radar is how well Brett Brown has coached up this young Sixers team. We saw Stevens out-coach Joe Prunty in the Milwaukee series, and look who came out on top. The Celtics. With both of these teams being very young, coaching will have a larger impact on the games played. Stevens and Brown will surely be playing a series-long game of chess, the winner of that game will most likely win the series.
Win at Home:
The Celtics needed all of their home wins against the Bucks, and I don't see this series being any different. If the Celtics cannot defend home court, they'll have a tough time edging out Philly in this series. They have the advantage of playing more (possible) games at home, so they will need to capitalize. There is an even larger emphasis on these first two home games. They are what I would consider must-wins.
Health of Jaylen Brown:
The status of Jaylen Brown is still unclear. If he is unable to play in a chunk of the series, then I don't believe the Celtics have much of a chance. That said, I anticipate him missing no more than one (the first) game, if any.
Now, what are some predictions for the series?
First off, the Celtics will win this series in six games. No Game 7 will be necessary. The Sixers are a tremendous team, but people are overrating them heading into this series. Let's not forget that they just became one of the hottest teams in the league. At any moment they could take a step back and lose the momentum they have been riding on.
My next prediction is that Terry Rozier will average over 20 points per game throughout the series. Why? Well, he has to. It is as simple as that (especially with Jaylen Brown being banged up). Rozier is a stud. There is no reason why he should not be able to do this.
The last prediction I have for this series is that Greg Monroe will have a great series. The C's will need their big men in this series. Monroe did not play too much in the past series, but I think that will be different in this one.
Overall, we are in store for a great series. Both are teams of the future in this league. The Celtics are considered the underdogs by many. Though they don't have their two best players, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, they are still a competitive team. Again, many are simply overrating the Sixers. The Celtics can, and will, take this series.