Boston Barely Survives Opening Round of NBA Playoffs
The Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics will open their Eastern Conference Semifinals playoff series at TD Garden on Monday. This is a battle of division rivals that have a long history of battles in the playoffs.
They are turning back to clock to older times. Bill Russell. Wilt Chamberlain. Larry Bird. Julius Erving. Kevin McHale. Hal Greer. Bob Cousy. Billy Cunningham. They all figure into these storied franchises rivalry.
This is the NBA’s top rivalry in terms of series played, if not intensity. The teams meet for the 20th time. It has always been the Celtics, but also been the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia Warriors/Sixers. That doesn’t change what is at stake.
The teams first met in the playoffs when the Sixers were the Syracuse Nationals. They haven’t met in the postseason since 2012 and have played twice since 1985. They have tangled twice in 1985 and the Celtics have won the last three series. Philly’s last win came in 1982.
Oddsmakers opened the 76ers as -2-point favorites versus the Celtics, while the game’s total opened at 210. Now the line is Philly -4.5 and the total is down to 205.
76ers Made Quick Work of Heat in Round 1 of NBA Playoffs
The Sixers, who have waited through years of tanking to get back to respectability. They took care of the Miami Heat in five games of the first round. Now they get the latest shot at their long-time rivals.
Philly’s players may be antsy to play again. The early end to the opening series has given them plenty of rest. The prolonged rest cannot be a bad thing for star center Joel Embiid. He returned from an orbital fracture to play the final three games of the series with the Heat.
Embiid averaged 18.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in those three games. He shot 8-of-14 from the floor in Game 5 after struggling a bit with his shot in the previous two games.
JJ Redick was Philadelphia’s top scorer versus the Heat with 20 points per game. Rookie Ben Simmons showed he is well-suited for the big stage. He averaged 18.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, nine assists and 2.4 steals in the series.
Embiid was held to 17.3 points on 38.5 percent shooting in three matchups with Boston during the regular season.
Celtics Won Season Series Against Sixers
The Celtics are the No. 2 seed in the East. They went 3-1 against the Sixers during the regular season. Boston erased a 22-point deficit to win their game in London. Philly’s 89-80 victory in the Jan. 18 series finale featured Embiid going off for 26 points, 18 rebounds and six assists.
Boston needed everything they had to survive a seven-game, first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks. We will find out tonight if the brutal series did any damage. The home team won every game in the series.
Jaylen Brown had two breakout scoring games in the first round. He tweaked a hamstring in the first half of Saturday’s game. He was pronounced ok to go, but Stevens held him out as a precaution.
Brown averaged 17.9 points against the Bucks. That was just a shade behind Al Horford, who averaged 18.1. Brown is the one who will take on the assignment of matching up with Embiid.
PG Terry Rozier had 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting and nine assists in Game 7 against Milwaukee.
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Philadelphia at Boston Thursday, May 3
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