NBA Daily: Stars Under The Most Pressure | Basketball Insiders

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 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 essentially 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 leap right into a breakdown of the sequence based mostly on some arbitrarily created classes.

Projected Starters

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 definitely throws a wrench into what the Sixers can do defensively towards Boston. Simmons’ protection was good 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) capturing.

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, could be left to protect the bulkier Brown. Which means Harris, who’s an improved however slow-footed defender, would get the dignity 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 it will likely be attention-grabbing 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 might 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’s Horford towards 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 might not see the court docket, however the first few on there are prone 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 talent that the group sorely lacks. Sadly for him, he may even see loads of Sensible when he is available in. Sensible’s stellar protection might mitigate the bench-scoring that Burks would deliver.

Thybulle may very well 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 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 shall 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 somewhat skinny. Kanter will seemingly be used because the back-up heart 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 might function quick rotations as this sequence 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 towards Nick Nurse final season within the sequence towards the Toronto Raptors.

On this sequence, the teaching selections constructed from recreation to recreation shall be put below a microscope by every of those group’s massive native media base. If issues go poorly on Brown’s finish, the scrutiny might result in his dismissal.

Essentially the most essential selections Brown should make shall be on the defensive finish. As a result of 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 includes the defender guarding the ball-handler combating over the display 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 aim right here is to goad the ball-handler into settling for a mid-range leap shot whereas contesting it from behind.

This scheme works when the guard defenders are energetic and engaged, because it takes a sure power stage to combat over a display 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 may very well 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 change to a entice, the place the person guarding the screener rushes out to double group 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 reap the benefits of a Four-on-Three. Brown might additionally go for switching, however this would depart 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 can have his personal selections to make on protection. The Sixers run post-ups greater than any group 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 usually the Celtics ship a double for these post-ups, and the way nicely the Sixers bigs deal with them, shall be a pivotal battle to look at.

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 needs to be sending assist from each course to point out Embiid’s completely different seems.

It might be smart 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 group might solely are available in case of an emergency.

Each coaches can have robust selections concerning their rotation, which may very well be shortened to as few as eight gamers if the sequence 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 have been about ten factors larger than the Celtics in these video games, per CleaningtheGlass. Within the recreation that Boston gained this season, the offensive rebounding charges have been very related, about 27 p.c for every.

Rebounding shall 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 gained the free throw battle of their three wins as nicely, and this shall be one other key because the group 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 usually, they might give themselves an opportunity to beat this Boston group. If the Celtics match the Sixers within the paint, it may very well be a brief sequence.

Chippiness Potential

Each good playoff sequence comes with somewhat animosity. For this sequence to get feisty, it will likely be on the backs of two gamers: Marcus Sensible and Joel Embiid.

These two have had a historical past of entering into fracases up to now, and the playoff depth is superb tinder for potential extracurriculars. Exterior of the 2 standard suspects, this sequence could also be quite tame.

Harris, Horford and Milton are usually mild-mannered. Brown, Tatum, and Walker take the excessive street as nicely. All it takes is one onerous foul to spark disdain, however it’s unlikely we see any all-out brawls.

Ultimate Prediction

Whereas the Sixers have probably one of the best participant within the sequence 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, count on the Celtics to deal with enterprise in spherical one—Celtics in 5.

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