The wait is over. The Philadelphia 76ers (54-28 regular season, No. 3 in the East) tip off the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics (57-25, No. 2 in the East) Monday in Boston. Game 1 is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET on TNT and 97.5 The Fanatic.
The Sixers completed their first four-game sweep since 1985 in the first round against the Brooklyn Nets. They were the only team in the NBA to sweep a series in the round. Game 4 – a 96-88 result – was April 22.
“As [P.J. Tucker] says, the playoffs start now,” Tyrese Maxey said immediately following the sweep. “I guess they didn't start this series. But he said it starts now.”
Maxey is averaging a team-high 21.8 points per game (15-30 3fg, .500) in the playoffs.
The Celtics needed six games to defeat the seventh-seeded Atlanta Hawks, 4-2. Boston dropped Game 3 on the road and Game 5 at home. The series-clinching Game 6 took place Thursday in Atlanta with a 128-120 final score.
Jayson Tatum led Boston with 27.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game in the series. Jaylen Brown averaged 26.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists against Atlanta.
On the injury report, Joel Embiid (right knee sprain) was listed as doubtful as of Sunday night. Danilo Gallinari (left knee ACL repair) remains out for the Celtics.
The Sixers dropped the four-game regular season series with Boston (3-1), but won the most recent meeting on April 4, 103-101. The two games in Boston both took place prior to the All-Star break, with the first being NBA opening night way back on Oct. 18. All four meetings were single-digit margins.
On that Tuesday night in South Philadelphia in early April, MVP favorite Embiid dominated, with 52 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, and two blocked shots. He shot an extremely efficient 20-for-25 from the field and 12-for-13 from the free throw line in his 39 minutes of play. It was the NBA scoring champion’s third 50-point game of the campaign.
“I don’t remember him missing a shot,” teammate James Harden said of Embiid. “That’s one of the most efficient 50’s I’ve seen.”
With the April 4 game tied at 89 with 3:14 remaining in regulation, P.J. Tucker went on to make three critical 3-pointers for the Sixers at the 2:53 (92-89), 2:03 (95-89), and 0:53 (101-95) marks. Harden posted 20 points, five rebounds, 10 assists, one steal, and two blocks.
Harden averaged 25.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 9.0 assists against the Celtics this season.
“I think it's good,” Tobias Harris said of the extended time off between playoff series. “We were able to get guys rested. We were able to sweep the first round. We handled our business. Every day we come into the gym, we've still got to handle our business in the best fashion that we know.”
Harris sits just behind Maxey (21.8 PPG) for playoff scoring at 20.3 points per game (8-14 3fg, .571).
Following Game 1 Monday, the teams remain in Boston for Wednesday’s Game 2 (8 p.m. ET). The series then shifts to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4 (Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET and Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET, respectively).
Monday is a 7:30 p.m. ET start in Boston.
Round 1 By the Numbers:
- Tyrese Maxey: 21.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.5 SPG
- Tobias Harris: 20.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.0 APG
- Joel Embiid: 20.0 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 4.0 APG, 2.3 BPG
- James Harden: 17.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 8.8 APG, 1.5 SPG
- De’Anthony Melton: 10.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, and 1.3 SPG in 25.5 MPG
- Paul Reed: 7.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG (4.3 ORPG) in 16.5 MPG
The Sixers scored 58 more second-chance points than the Nets in the first-round series. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that marks the largest scoring differential for the category in any NBA playoff series throughout the play-by-play era (1996-97).
Quote to Note:
76ers Head Coach Doc Rivers on this year’s team:
“We’ve got a bunch of guys that aren’t scared of the fight. They actually go towards it.”