Sixers

Sixers

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - APRIL 04: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics reacts during the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on April 04, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers do battle in Game 1 of their second-round NBA playoff series on Monday night at TD Garden. The Celtics won the season series 3-1 in the regular season, but now, both teams sit at 0-0.

Here are seven things to know about the series for Celtics and 76ers fans…

  • A Battle Of Top-5 Offenses

    The Celtics and 76ers both finished in the top-5 in offensive rating (estimated points per 100 possessions, per Basketball Reference). Second and fourth, respectively. But they’re basically neck-and-neck; the C’s had a 118.0 offensive rating, with the Sixers just behind at 117.7.

    And the two teams try to get the ball in the basket in different ways. The Celtics launch a much higher rate of three-pointers (48 percent of shot attempts) than the 76ers, who shot from three 38.9 percent of the time. That’s mainly because the offense largely runs through big man Joel Embiid, who averaged 17.1 two-point attempts per game against just 3.0 attempts per game from downtown.

    However, the 76ers offense could look much different than usual to start the series, because…

  • Embiid Is Hurt

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - APRIL 04: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots over Al Horford #42 of the Boston Celtics during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center on April 04, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – APRIL 04: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots over Al Horford #42 of the Boston Celtics during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center on April 04, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    The latest with Embiid from NBA insider Shams Charania is that Embiid is doubtful for Game 1 and is going to need a “miracle” in order to play. Charania doesn’t seem to be ruling that out, but says it would be a “miracle” if he did play Monday night at TD Garden.

    Embiid was diagnosed with an LCL sprain in his right knee back on April 21. Charania reported that he underwent platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment last week, and his LCL injury is of the “pretty serious” variety. Embiid has a history of playing through injuries, so it’s likely he tries to gut it out at some point. But it’s not looking good for him to start the series. James Harden (25.5 points/game against Boston) takes over the clear No. 1 scoring duties.

  • Jayson Tatum Has Struggled Against Philly

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - APRIL 04: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers guards Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center on April 04, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – APRIL 04: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers guards Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center on April 04, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    Jayson Tatum may be going into this series feeling like he has something to prove. Because he averaged the fewest points per game (21.0) of any opponent when he played the 76ers.

    Tatum scored 35 points in the season opener against Philly, then averaged 16.3 points over the last three matchups in the regular season. He shot just 6-for-21 from three-point range (28.6 percent) in those three subpar games.

    He did, however, have one of the most clutch moments of the Celtics’ season so far when he drained a go-ahead three with 1.3 seconds left in a win over the 76ers on Feb. 25. It’ll be interesting to see how Tatum performs against this particular opponent, both overall and in crunch time.

  • They’re Even In Terms Of Turnovers

    Feb 15, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) and Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) chase a loose ball during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Feb 15, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) and Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) chase a loose ball during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    The Celtics have the edge in terms of turnovers, but it’s a slight one. Boston committed 12.0 turnovers per 100 plays in the regular season, compared to 12.6 for Philadelphia. But the 76ers also forced more turnovers than the Celtics in the regular season (7.9 steals per 100 possessions vs 6.4).

    Perhaps we see a close game (or seven) that come down to a key turnover here and there. The series result could be as simple as the more disciplined team.

  • A Big Advantage?

    Apr 4, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) drives against Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 4, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) drives against Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    If and when Embiid is out of the lineup for the 76ers, the series becomes a much harder hill to climb for them – and a much easier matchup for the Celtics’ bigs. Al Horford averaged just 10.1 points on 39.3 percent shooting and 5.7 rebounds against the Sixers in the regular season. Robert Williams scored 14 points and eight rebounds in his lone game against Philly, but in that game, Williams and Horford combined for 29 and 12 while Embiid went off for 41 and 12.

    The Celtics have a huge opportunity to take advantage of the paint if Embiid isn’t on the floor.

  • White, Maxey Are Your X-Factors

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - APRIL 04: Derrick White #9 of the Boston Celtics shoots over Tyrese Maxey #0 and James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center on April 04, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – APRIL 04: Derrick White #9 of the Boston Celtics shoots over Tyrese Maxey #0 and James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center on April 04, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    Maxey continues to elevate his game. He averaged 21.8 points in the Sixers’ first-round sweep of the Nets, after putting up a career-best 20.3 points per game in the regular season. He didn’t shoot well in an Embiid-less Game 4 (6-for-20, 30 percent), but he’ll continue to be counted on as a top-2 scoring option in the big man’s absence.

    White, meanwhile, is off to the best start of his playoff career, after posting 17.3 points with shooting percentages of .557/.457/.909 in a starting role during the first round against the Hawks. He and Maxey are the players to watch the closest that aren’t the household names.

  • Coaching Experience

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 18: Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers directs his team during the first half of the game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on October 18, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 18: Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers directs his team during the first half of the game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on October 18, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Celtics first-year head coach Joe Mazzulla had a shaky first round in his own right, while Doc Rivers certainly has his own place in Celtics history with a championship in 2008. But despite Rivers’ steep edge in actual experience, his teams have become better known for playoff collapses in recent years, including the Sixers losing three out of their last four games in a 2021 series loss to the Hawks.

    It’s likely both teams and coaches feel shaky at certain points in this series. But Rivers may not have the advantage over Mazzulla that Philly hopes he would have.

  • Matt Dolloff is a digital content producer for 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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