Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers: 3 Keys to a Celtics Victory


The Boston Celtics officially begin their quest for banner 18 on Monday evening when their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers tips off.  Before the season began in October, many felt these two teams would meet in the postseason, just not this early.  The 76ers, widely viewed as Milwaukee's top competition in the Eastern Conference before the season started, have failed to live up to expectations.  Now they find themselves face to face with a franchise that has historically owned them in the postseason, including a 5-game series victory just a couple of seasons ago.  Here are a few things the Celtics can do to replicate that success.

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Start Fast

I don't necessarily mean in the course of the game.  Obviously, getting off to a good start in each game is important, but not paramount to winning this series.  When I say start fast, I mean win the first couple of games.  This postseason is unlike any postseason prior.  Seeding is largely irrelevant.  There is no home court advantage to rely on.  Typically, if the higher seed wins games 1 and 2, the lower seed can still feel good knowing that the next two games will be in front of their home crowd, and gives them a chance to get back into the series.  That luxury doesn't exist anymore.

I think if teams fall into an early series hole, it's going to be much more difficult to climb out of it.  There won't be any travel, or extra off days to halt momentum.  If a team gets on a roll early, it's going to be difficult to stop it in this environment.

That goes for any team, but especially for a 76ers team that has struggled all season.  They remind me a lot of last year's Celtics team.  A lot of offseason hype due to the individual talent, but for one reason or another it hasn't come together consistently.  They've struggled in the face of adversity all season long, and if the Celtics can jump on them early in this series, I think they'll fold.

Defend the Perimeter

This has been a weakness for the Celtics since the restart.  They've struggled to defend the three-point line consistently.  In this series, their perimeter defense needs to be strong because Philly has the advantage in the paint.  If Joel Embiid posts up the majority of the game, he could average 30 in this series.  Heck, Al Horford could put up some numbers too if he decided to use his size, but that's not how he plays. 

I'd be okay with that though.  If the 76ers want to turn back the clock and play old school basketball, have at it.  I don't think you can win like that anymore.  The game has changed.  If Embiid is getting his paint touches and putting up numbers, Boston has to defend the three-point line.  The key is going to be ensuring ancillary guys like Josh Richardson, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton and Alec Burks don't catch fire from downtown.  That's when Boston could find itself in some trouble. 

Share the Basketball

This team is at its best when they are moving the ball; which is ironic because statistically they are towards the bottom of the league in assists per game.  Between Tatum, Walker, Brown and Hayward they certainly have the talent to play isolation.  They could throw the ball to any one of those guys and just get out of the way and watch them work.  More often than not, they would win their individual matchups.  However, that's not a recipe for success in the playoffs.

Not including the finale against Washington in which Boston's top 6 rested, the Celtics averaged 16.5 assists per game in their two losses and averaged just over 28 assists in their five wins since the season resumed.  Small sample size?  Yes, but still a good indication of what they need to do to be successful.  You don't even have to look at the numbers though.  If you've watched their games, you can see the difference. 

Against Toronto and Brooklyn, when they eviscerated their opponent, the ball was moving constantly.  Guys were attacking the basket, and then finding the open man; passing up good shots for great shots.  The defense couldn't move fast enough.  Guys knew what they were going to do with the ball before they even had it.  That version of the Celtics is hard to beat.


Philly beat Boston three out of four times in the regular season this year, but these two teams appear to be headed in opposite directions.  Boston appears to be gelling, while Philly is still struggling with consistent play.  Celtics in 5. 

Follow Derek on Twitter @mcvay34

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers: 3 Keys to a Celtics Victory
Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers: 3 Keys to a Celtics Victory
Boston Sports Syndicate
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