After 5 weeks full of meals critique, vlogs, basketball video games, and 0 (!!) Covid-19 positives, the NBA playoffs are about to start. Seven out of eight collection are locked in, with solely the Lakers awaiting the winner of the Portland Trailblazers and Memphis Grizzlies play-in recreation(s).
Whereas all the collection could have their share of storylines, maybe probably the most intriguing will come from the center of the Japanese Convention bracket. The Philadelphia 76ers will meet the longtime rival Boston Celtics because the Three-6 matchup.
With out additional ado, let’s bounce right into a breakdown of the collection 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 in opposition to Boston. Simmons’ protection was sensible this season and sure 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 p.c) taking pictures.
With out Simmons, the Sixers should get artistic to match-up with the Celtic’s a number of scorers. Richardson is their finest guard defender, so he ought to get many of the Walker duties. Milton, whose protection has been lower than stellar, can be left to protect the bulkier Brown. Which means Harris, who’s an improved however slow-footed defender, would get the respect of hounding the 22-year-old All-Star.
Horford will guard Hayward whereas Embiid will patrol the center in opposition to Theis, rounding out the match-ups of the beginning 5.
Milton on Brown is an obvious mismatch, and will probably be attention-grabbing to see how typically 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 aspect, 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 in opposition to the smaller Hayward, although the Sixers could also be cautious of resorting to Horford post-ups as a major 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 Sensible – 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 court docket, however the first few on there are more likely to play important roles in how this collection 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 talent that the workforce sorely lacks. Sadly for him, he might even see lots of Sensible when he is available in. Sensible’s stellar protection might 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 night time, saying concerning the rookie, “He’s going to be enormous, as a defensive requirement … I can’t understate that.”
With the beforehand outlined defensive match-ups leaving room for concern, Thybulle will see a hefty function on this collection. He’ll see time guarding Walker in addition to Tatum. The important thing for Thybulle can be to remain disciplined and defend with out fouling. If he can try this and knock down some threes when open, he might discover himself within the crunch-time lineup.
After Sensible, the Celtics bench can look slightly 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 quick rotations as this collection goes alongside, however the edge right here barely belongs to the Celtics on the again of Sensible’s confirmed productiveness.
Philadelphia: Brett Brown
Boston: Brad Stevens
Stevens and Brown each started their tenures with the 2013-14 season. They’d 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 in opposition to Nick Nurse final season within the collection in opposition to the Toronto Raptors.
On this collection, the teaching selections constructed from recreation to recreation can be put beneath a microscope by every of those workforce’s giant native media base. If issues go poorly on Brown’s finish, the scrutiny might result in his dismissal.
Probably the most essential selections Brown should make can be on the defensive finish. Because of the mismatches throughout the board, the Sixers should jiggle with their defensive schemes.
The Sixers often play drop protection when defending pick-and-rolls. The scheme entails the defender guarding the ball-handler preventing over the display and chasing the ball-handler from behind, whereas the massive man guarding the screener dops into the paint to guard from a layup or a lob. The objective right here is to goad the ball-handler into settling for a mid-range bounce shot whereas contesting it from behind.
This scheme works when the guard defenders are energetic and engaged, because it takes a sure vitality stage to combat over a display and get again into the play to forestall 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 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 regulate.
He might swap to a entice, the place the person guarding the screener rushes out to double workforce the ball handler earlier than recovering again to the rollover. The adjustment would drive the Celtics’ ball-handlers to make crisp passes out of these performs to make the most of a Four-on-Three. Brown might additionally go for switching, however this would go away gamers like Embiid and Horford to protect wings one-on-one, and it might additionally result in the Celtics searching for out Milton or Korkmaz.
Stevens could have his personal selections to make on protection. The Sixers run post-ups greater than any workforce within the league, and by a major margin. Embiid carries these numbers, however Horford and Harris prefer to again down smaller gamers when given an opportunity.
How typically the Celtics ship a double for these post-ups, and the way effectively the Sixers bigs deal with them, can be a pivotal battle to look at.
Embiid has improved his passing out of double groups within the bubble, however anticipate the Celtics to check him additional in that regard. Stevens must be sending assist from each route to indicate Embiid’s totally different seems to be.
It could be clever to protect Horford Straight up, as his passing is a power and he gained’t do as a lot injury 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 workforce could solely are available in case of an emergency.
Each coaches could have powerful selections concerning their rotation, which might be shortened to as few as eight gamers if the collection goes the space.
Statistics to Watch
Within the 4 video games these two groups performed this season, two statistics jumped out: rebounding and free throw charge.
Within the three video games the Sixers gained, they posted offensive rebounding charges of 32 p.c, 33 p.c and 31 p.c. These charges had been about ten factors increased than the Celtics in these video games, per CleaningtheGlass. Within the recreation that Boston gained this season, the offensive rebounding charges had been very comparable, about 27 p.c for every.
Rebounding can be essential for this collection 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 gained the free throw battle of their three wins as effectively, and this can be one other key because the workforce tries to advance to spherical two. Within the recreation gained by the Celtics, they paraded to the road, placing up a free throw charge of 36.5 p.c.
If the Sixers defend with out fouling and get to the road typically, they may give themselves an opportunity to beat this Boston workforce. If the Celtics match the Sixers within the paint, it might be a brief collection.
Each good playoff collection comes with slightly animosity. For this collection to get feisty, will probably be on the backs of two gamers: Marcus Sensible 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 ordinary suspects, this collection could also be somewhat tame.
Harris, Horford and Milton are typically mild-mannered. Brown, Tatum, and Walker take the excessive street as effectively. All it takes is one laborious foul to spark disdain, however it’s unlikely we see any all-out brawls.
Whereas the Sixers have probably the most effective participant within the collection in Embiid, the remainder of the roster with out Simmons goes to have bother dealing with the Celtics scorers. Barring a dominant efficiency from the middle, anticipate the Celtics to handle enterprise in spherical one—Celtics in 5.