If we talk about the rivalry that exists between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers (formerly Syracuse Nationals) we have to go way back in time. This is because this playoff series is the most repeated in NBA history, with a total of 22 if we include this year’s series.

This playoffs series have always been marked by a great rivalry between different stars: Wilt Chamberlain vs Bill Russell, Erving vs Bird, Iverson vs Pierce, or the most recent of all and still going on today, Embiid vs Tatum.

Since the 76ers’ arrival in the NBA in 1949 (Nationals at the time), they have played a series against each other at least in every decade, except the 1990s. Adding them all up, 10 times the NBA champion has emerged from this serie; and another five times they have been, at least, finalists.

In the historical scoreboard the Celtics come out on top with 14 victories in these duels, not to mention the number of rings, taking into account that the Celtics have 17 and the 76ers only three. This great difference is mainly due to the hegemony of Bill Russell with his 11 championships and the three of Larry Bird.

If we focus on recent history, since 2018, they have faced each other a total of three times, ending all of them favorable to the Boston team. One of these playoffs was unprecedented, as in 2020 for the first time in history, the Celtics swept the 76ers 4-0.

This series can undoubtedly be a turning point for the counter of both teams, since the 76ers can give a blow on the table this playoffs and finally overcome the Celtics. So far, the result is better than expected, as they have stolen the home-court factor after a great first game by Harden scoring 45 points.

We must remember that the Celtics are not anything and, although they have lost the first game at home, they are still favorites despite being 1-1 in the playoffs. The outcome of this series will depend on many factors. Here are some of the main ones.

The Jays:

Both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will be determinant for Boston’s future. Despite losing the first game, both played a more than worthy game, Tatum scored 39 points and Brown, 23; although they were not enough to overcome their rival.

On the other hand, in this second game, Brown was consistent with 25 points; while Tatum was out of the game from the first minute, scoring only 7 points and getting loaded with fouls very early.

It’s not just the points they score, but the feeling they give on the court. Especially Jaylen Brown, who gives a feeling of being unstoppable every time he gets the ball. This can be seen in his shooting percentages, which are very high in this playoffs.

Embiid’s physicality:

The 76ers star and recent winner of this NBA season’s MVP, has missed the first game of this series and another of the previous one due to injury. This is due to a sprained knee he suffered in Game 3 against the Brooklyn Nets.

The win against the Celtics will depend in large part on how physical Embiid can be throughout the series. So far they have won the first one without him, but in the second one he came back and they lost.

In this second game, he has looked very good on defense, doing 5 blocks, but on offense he hasn’t been seen with many lights. This might be because he is not 100% recovered from that sprain and his game may have been limited.

The three-pointers:

Three-pointers will undoubtedly be one of the most important factors in this playoffs. In these two games the difference has been noticeable. In the first, the 76ers made almost all of them, while in the second they weren’t so lucky from the 3-point line.

For their part, Boston has looked very good in this facet, as they have been able to find free players to score from long distance.

Both teams have great three-point shooters on their teams besides their main stars. These players will be determinant for their teams to score points apart from the individuality of their superstars. 

Players like Derrick White or Brogdon for Celtics; and Melton or Maxey in 76ers; will have to be plugged in from long distance to add important buckets to the game.

James Harden:

If the 76ers want to advance in the playoffs, they must get all the cogs in their mechanism working. A key pillar is James Harden. The shooting guard had a great first game matching his playoff record with 45 points.

On the side, Harden had a disastrous second game (despite a double-double), as he finished the game with 2-14 shooting and 0-6 in three-pointers. Terrible percentages if we compare them especially with the previous game.

Despite the fact that his shots aren’t going in, it is true that he looks quite fresh. This is due to the great time they had to rest compared to the previous playoffs. Harden’s freshness is going to be fundamental, since he is a player who depends a lot on his legs in all the movements he makes on offense to overcome the rival defenses.

We will see how this tie unfolds, as these two teams are undoubtedly one of the main conteners for the title. Everything seems to indicate, if there are no surprises, that whoever wins this series will have a spot in the finals (due to the early elimination of the Bucks, who was the feared opponent). I have no doubt that it will be a very interesting and close round.

Main image: @celtics.

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