The Boston Celtics host the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the 2nd round.
Despite being without their two biggest stars, the Boston Celtics were able to scrap and claw their way to a first round victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in 7 games that ended on Saturday night. Their prize…they now get to face the Philadelphia 76ers, who have won 20 of their last 21 games, stemming back to the regular season.
Even more of a disadvantage for the Celtics, they are playing on only two days rest while the 76ers have not had a game since last Tuesday. One advantage that the Celtics do have, though, which loomed large in the first round, is that they have home-court advantage in the second round. With that in mind, on Monday night, the Philadelphia 76ers will travel to TD Garden to face the Boston Celtics with a tip off scheduled for 8:00 pm ET.
The spread for this game comes in at the Philadelphia 76ers -3 and the Boston Celtics at +3. The over/under for the game is set at 208.
It almost seems unfair to have a point guard that measures in at 6’10”, but that is exactly what the 76ers have. Ben Simmons, the likely Rookie of the Year, has excelled all year long in large part to his clear size advantage over his competition. This did not change once the playoffs started. Through one round, Simmons is averaging 18.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 9 assists.
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At only 6’2”, Boston point guard Terry Rozier will likely not be guarding Simmons (although Simmons will likely guard Rozier). Instead, during the regular season, Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens often deployed the likes of Al Horford on Simmons. While Simmons has dominated in his rookie year as point guard, he is a little unconventional as he doesn’t shoot from the three, which allows power forwards to not be stretched as much by him.
The problem with Horford on Simmons, though, is that he may also be the best suited to guard Joel Embiid. Embiid, who missed the first couple games of the first round after having surgery on his orbital bone is going to cause all sorts of matchup issues for the Celtics. Not only is he a force on the defensive side, but in his 3 first round games, Embid averaged 18.7 points and 10.3 rebounds.
The key for the Celtics will be slowing Simmons and Embid down, but the 76ers have other options as well. In the first round, JJ Redick (20 points), Dario Saric (16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds), Ersan Ilyasova (10.8 points, 9.2 rebounds), Marco Belinelli (16.6 points) and Robert Covington (9.4 points, 5.6 rebounds) all played major roles. While the Celtics faced two stars last round in Antetokounmpo and Middleton, the Bucks didn’t have a supporting cast like the 76ers do.
With all four of their victories being in the TD Gardens, the Celtics will be glad to start off the series at home. For a team lacking a true superstar right now, though, the question will be where they can get their scoring from. In the first round, they got big contributions from Terry Rozier (17.6 points, 6.7 assists) and Al Horford (18.1 points, 8.7 rebounds), but I think that Ben Simmons and Joel Embid are more likely to keep that duo in check in this series.
For the Celtics, that means they are likely going to have to turn to Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. In the opening round, Brown averaged 17.9 points and 4.7 rebounds while Tatum averaged 15.4 points and 5.3 rebounds. Of major concern for the Celtics, though, is that Jaylen Brown had to sit out the second half of game 7 against the Bucks with a hamstring issue and has been downgraded to doubtful for Monday’s game. That just means that there will be even more pressure on the supporting cast for the Celtics against a fresh and energetic 76ers team.
It is hard to bet against the Celtics because they have gone against all odds throughout the season. They won 55 games after losing Gordon Heyward. They won the first round matchup after losing Kyrie Irving. In game one of this series, though, I think the odds are just too stacked against them. With those two still out and Jaylen Brown struggling with a hamstring injury, I think it is will be clear sailing for the fresh 76ers Monday night. Take the 76ers at -3.