After 5 weeks full of meals critique, vlogs, basketball video games, and nil (!!) Covid-19 positives, the NBA playoffs are about to start. Seven out of eight sequence are locked in, with solely the Lakers awaiting the winner of the Portland Trailblazers and Memphis Grizzlies play-in recreation(s).
Whereas the entire sequence can have their share of storylines, maybe probably the most intriguing will come from the center of the Jap Convention bracket. The Philadelphia 76ers will meet the longtime rival Boston Celtics because the Three-6 matchup.
With out additional ado, let’s soar right into a breakdown of the sequence based mostly on some arbitrarily created classes.
Boston: Kemba Walker – Jaylen Brown – Jayson Tatum – Gordon Hayward – Daniel Theis
Philadelphia: Shake Milton – Josh Richardson – Tobias Harris – Al Horford – Joel Embiid
The damage to Ben Simmons actually throws a wrench into what the Sixers can do defensively towards Boston. Simmons’ protection was good this season and certain will earn him first-team All-defense honors. He shadowed Tatum in every of their 4 regular-season video games, holding him to level totals of 21, 15, 15 and 25 on a mixed 24 for 72 (33 %) taking pictures.
With out Simmons, the Sixers must get artistic to match-up with the Celtic’s a number of scorers. Richardson is their greatest guard defender, so he ought to get many of the Walker duties. Milton, whose protection has been lower than stellar, could be left to protect the bulkier Brown. Meaning Harris, who’s an improved however slow-footed defender, would get the glory of hounding the 22-year-old All-Star.
Horford will guard Hayward whereas Embiid will patrol the center towards Theis, rounding out the match-ups of the beginning 5.
Milton on Brown is an obvious mismatch, and will probably be fascinating to see how usually the Celtics let him go to work within the submit. Tatum shouldn’t be too fretted on the sight of Harris both, and Hayward could attempt to take the slower Horford off the dribble.
On the opposite facet, the Celtics can match-up extra conventionally. Walker will guard the opposing level guard Milton whereas Brown will guard Richardson. Tatum will guard Harris throughout from him, leaving Hayward tasked with guarding the larger Horford. Embiid and Theis will keep matched up within the center.
The one mismatch there may be Horford towards the smaller Hayward, although the Sixers could also be cautious of resorting to Horford post-ups as a main supply of offense. The Celtics have a transparent benefit from the opening tip.
Philadelphia: Alec Burks – Matisse Thybulle – Furkan Korkmaz – Glenn Robinson III – Mike Scott
Boston: Marcus Good – Brad Wanamaker – Enes Kanter – Semi Ojeleye – Grant Williams
Coaches are fickle within the post-season, so a few of these names could not see the courtroom, however the first few on there are more likely to play important roles in how this sequence seems.
Burks has been a microwave for the Sixers within the bubble. He excels at pulling-up from deep and the midrange off the dribble, a ability that the staff sorely lacks. Sadly for him, he may even see lots of Good when he is available in. Good’s stellar protection may mitigate the bench-scoring that Burks would deliver.
Thybulle might be an X-Issue reserve for the Sixers. Head coach Brett Brown acknowledged as a lot in his post-game presser Friday evening, saying concerning the rookie, “He’s going to be big, as a defensive requirement … I can not understate that.”
With the beforehand outlined defensive match-ups leaving room for concern, Thybulle will see a hefty position on this sequence. He’ll see time guarding Walker in addition to Tatum. The important thing for Thybulle will likely be to remain disciplined and defend with out fouling. If he can do this and knock down some threes when open, he may discover himself within the crunch-time lineup.
After Good, the Celtics bench can look a little bit skinny. Kanter will probably be used because the back-up middle as he offers extra resistance to an Embiid post-up, however he can fall flat guarding pick-and-rolls. Ojeleye is a defensive stopper that may defend the likes of Harris, however his offense will come and go.
Each groups could function brief rotations as this sequence goes alongside, however the edge right here barely belongs to the Celtics on the again of Good’s confirmed productiveness.
Philadelphia: Brett Brown
Boston: Brad Stevens
Stevens and Brown each started their tenures with the 2013-14 season. That they had met as soon as earlier than within the playoffs when the Celtics dispatched the Sixers in 5 video games again in 2018.
Stevens is a top-tier coach, whereas Brown has handled rumors of dismissal since these playoffs. Whereas Stevens is the higher coach, Brown did maintain his personal towards Nick Nurse final season within the sequence towards the Toronto Raptors.
On this sequence, the teaching selections produced from recreation to recreation will likely be put underneath a microscope by every of those staff’s giant native media base. If issues go poorly on Brown’s finish, the scrutiny may result in his dismissal.
Probably the most essential selections Brown must make will likely be on the defensive finish. As a result of mismatches throughout the board, the Sixers must jiggle with their defensive schemes.
The Sixers normally play drop protection when defending pick-and-rolls. The scheme entails the defender guarding the ball-handler combating over the display screen and chasing the ball-handler from behind, whereas the large man guarding the screener dops into the paint to guard from a layup or a lob. The purpose right here is to goad the ball-handler into settling for a mid-range soar shot whereas contesting it from behind.
This scheme works when the guard defenders are lively and engaged, because it takes a sure vitality degree to struggle over a display screen and get again into the play to stop an open floater. Simmons, Richardson and Thybulle have been nice this season at executing this.
With out Simmons, although, there might be holes. Harris doesn’t have the footwork and restoration pace to get round a display screen and contest. Nor does Milton, who tends to get taken out of performs when picked. If the Celtics begin to feast with floaters and open jumpers, Brown might want to alter.
He may swap to a lure, the place the person guarding the screener rushes out to double staff the ball handler earlier than recovering again to the rollover. The adjustment would power the Celtics’ ball-handlers to make crisp passes out of these performs to reap the benefits of a Four-on-Three. Brown may additionally go for switching, however this would go away gamers like Embiid and Horford to protect wings one-on-one, and it may additionally result in the Celtics in search of out Milton or Korkmaz.
Stevens can have his personal selections to make on protection. The Sixers run post-ups greater than any staff within the league, and by a big margin. Embiid carries these numbers, however Horford and Harris wish to again down smaller gamers when given an opportunity.
How usually the Celtics ship a double for these post-ups, and the way effectively the Sixers bigs deal with them, will likely be a pivotal battle to observe.
Embiid has improved his passing out of double groups within the bubble, however count on the Celtics to check him additional in that regard. Stevens ought to be sending assist from each route to point out Embiid’s totally different seems to be.
It might be smart to protect Horford Straight up, as his passing is a energy and he received’t do as a lot harm out of repeated post-ups. Harris, in the meantime, is a weak passer, however the Celtics have the gamers to protect him one-on-one, so a double staff could solely are available case of an emergency.
Each coaches can have robust selections relating to their rotation, which might be shortened to as few as eight gamers if the sequence goes the gap.
Statistics to Watch
Within the 4 video games these two groups performed this season, two statistics jumped out: rebounding and free throw fee.
Within the three video games the Sixers received, they posted offensive rebounding charges of 32 %, 33 % and 31 %. These charges have been about ten factors greater than the Celtics in these video games, per CleaningtheGlass. Within the recreation that Boston received this season, the offensive rebounding charges have been very related, about 27 % for every.
Rebounding will likely be essential for this sequence because the Sixers attempt to hold the tempo. With out Simmons, it will require Embiid going into overdrive down low. He’s able to this in brief bursts, however it’s unclear if he can maintain that sort of effort for heavy minutes.
The Sixers received the free throw battle of their three wins as effectively, and this will likely be one other key because the staff tries to advance to spherical two. Within the recreation received by the Celtics, they paraded to the road, placing up a free throw fee of 36.5 %.
If the Sixers defend with out fouling and get to the road usually, they may give themselves an opportunity to beat this Boston staff. If the Celtics match the Sixers within the paint, it might be a brief sequence.
Each good playoff sequence comes with a little bit animosity. For this sequence to get feisty, will probably be on the backs of two gamers: Marcus Good and Joel Embiid.
These two have had a historical past of stepping into fracases prior to now, and the playoff depth is great tinder for potential extracurriculars. Exterior of the 2 common suspects, this sequence could also be moderately tame.
Harris, Horford and Milton are typically mild-mannered. Brown, Tatum, and Walker take the excessive street as effectively. All it takes is one arduous foul to spark disdain, however it’s unlikely we see any all-out brawls.
Whereas the Sixers have doubtlessly the most effective participant within the sequence in Embiid, the remainder of the roster with out Simmons goes to have hassle dealing with the Celtics scorers. Barring a dominant efficiency from the middle, count on the Celtics to deal with enterprise in spherical one—Celtics in 5.