Kincade & Salciunas: Weekdays 6am – 10am

Kincade & Salciunas: Weekdays 6am – 10am

Kincade & Salciunas: Weekdays 6am – 10am

MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 09: Derrick White #9 of the Boston Celtics defends Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the first quarter of game five of the Eastern Conference Second Round Playoffs at TD Garden on May 09, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts.

On the day of the biggest basketball game, this city has seen in a long time, as the Sixers take their 3-2 series lead against the Celtics, it wouldn’t be just if we didn’t provide a “Keys to the Game” analysis. So here we go.

  • Sixers on Offense:

    There have been a lot of key individual performances from Sixers players, such as the dominating ones by James Harden in Games 1 and 4; the overall play of Joel Embiid throughout most of the series, and the breakout performance of Tyrese Maxey in Game 5. All of those were great and leads to what is the offensive key for the Sixers. While individuals will indeed need to shine, the Sixers are at their best in this series when all are included. That means the team will have to concentrate on ball movement, all starting with Harden and Maxey.

    There will be times when isolating Joel Embiid will have to happen, and that usually ends with good results. But when this team heavily relies on isolation, the offense becomes stagnant with too many other players standing around and making it easier for the Celtics to defend. In Game 5, Boston showed a willingness to double-team Embiid more than in any other game in the series. The Sixers made them pay by hitting open outside shots and Embiid was terrific finding others when doubled. That has to continue tonight. If it does, Boston could be in some trouble.

  • Sixers on Defense

    Boston didn’t have a good offensive game on Tuesday, and part of it had to do with both teams. Embiid was phenomenal at protecting the rim and had many Celtics – especially Jason Tatum – thinking twice about challenging him there. I don’t see that changing. Embiid has made rim protection a big part of his playoff game, and the team is reaping the benefits.

    But Boston did have a ton of open looks from the three-point line that they simply missed. Coach Joe Mazzula said he counted 10 wide-open misses in the first half alone. On the counter, Sixers coach Doc Rivers said a point of emphasis on Wednesday was for his team to be better at getting out on shooters, so that is something that needs to be watched.

  • Intangibles:

    When it comes to playing the Boston Celtics, intangibles always seem to be a huge factor. The Sixers can’t allow them to become a big part of the game tonight. They cannot allow offensive rebounds to save possessions for the Celtics. The Sixers have to win the majority of the 50-50 balls that will be up for grabs throughout the game. And most importantly, the Sixers have to play smart basketball. Silly, lazy mistakes have to be at a minimum.

  • Overall

    No matter your confidence level of the Sixers advancing past the second round for the first time since 2001, know that tonight is most likely going to be a street fight. I don’t see a blowout either way. The bad body language by the Celtics on Tuesday had to be expected with all that was going on then. It won’t be there to begin the game and maybe not at all.

  • Prediction:

    I just think the Sixers are playing really good ball right now, good enough that the series ends tonight.

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