The Celtics have had their way against the 76ers over the past few seasons, and they were 3-1 against Philadelphia this season. The one game the 76ers won was when Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams were out. Regardless, this is going to be a very tough series. These three factors could determine who advances between the Celtics and the 76ers.
James Harden’s Playoff Regression
What many people were looking at during the 76ers vs Nets round one matchup was how well James Harden was going to play. James Harden has had his shortcomings in the playoffs, averaging 22 points per game on lower efficiency than his usual. Harden didn’t show off much optimism in this series.
James Harden’s highest-scoring game was 23 points. He averaged 17 points for the entire series on 34% from the field and 42% from three. Harden simply looked like a shell of his former self, and while his transition to be a pass-first player has been great, he will need to assert himself as more of a scorer to beat Boston.
Boston has two great defensive guards named Marcus Smart and Derrick White who can match up with Harden. Harden has lost the burst he once had, and it is very possible the Celtics can limit his impact throughout the series.
Joel Embiid’s Health
Joel Embiid missed the last game of the series against the Nets with an LCL sprain, and his availability for the series is in question. Embiid will likely play through pain, the question is how much of an impact can he make against Boston.
Embiid dominated this regular season averaging 33 points per game, and he had a 52-point performance against Boston. There have been reports that Embiid will have to play with a brace on and play through grueling pain. Embiid is such a talented player that his playing at 60% might be better than most NBA players, but in a series against Boston, you’ll need him to be 100% healthy. Embiid will be limited, but the question is will he still be able to make a large enough contribution?
The Celtics have invested and built their entire franchise around Tatum and Brown and Tatum is going to need to have a good series for them to advance. Jayson had a terrific regular season averaging 30 points, nine rebounds, and five assists per game. Tatum is a playoff performer, as he had led the NBA in playoff points last year, but he has struggled against the 76ers a bit this season.
The Celtics have had great team success against the 76ers, but throughout this season, Tatum has averaged 21 points, ten rebounds, and six assists. While this shows Tatum can make other contributions to this game, the Celtics will need more scoring from Tatum. Boston has a lot of depth in Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White, and a star in Jaylen Brown who can be just as good if not better than Tatum.
This is a great matchup for Boston since the 76ers lack good defensive wings, and this should be a series where Tatum breaks out.
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