While there’s still eight regular season games left to play before the NBA standings are final, there’s currently a strong chance the Sixers will be squaring off against the Boston Celtics in round one. With Boston in the third seed and Philly holding down the sixth seed, another playoff series between the old rivals seems inevitable.
While there’s been some question marks as of late regarding his health, point guard Ben Simmons will no doubt play a crucial role in this series. Entering into his third consecutive postseason now, here is how Simmons has fared against the Celtics up until this point:
When it comes to Simmons’ entire career, the Boston Celtics are actually the team he’s played against the most. Across three regular seasons, Simmons has played the Celtics 12 times. Unfortunately for the Sixers, Simmons has actually seen his production take a slight hit versus Boston compared to his career averages.
Simmons’ Career Averages: 16.4 PTS, 8.3 REB, 8.0 AST, 1.7 STL, 56.1 FG%
Simmons’ Career Averages vs the Celtics: 15.2 PTS, 8.5 REB, 5.8 AST, 1.7 STL, 55.1 FG%
Now obviously the differences in production mentioned above are barely worth noting. Outside of a few less points and assists per game, the averages are nearly identical. However, one of the more concerning differences is that of Simmons’ “usage rate” when playing the Celtics.
Brad Stevens and the Celtics really emphasize taking Simmons out of the game when playing the Sixers, and Simmons’ usage rate of 20.2 when playing the Celtics would actually rank as his career-low when compared to other seasons. This likely explains why his assist totals take the biggest hit against Boston, seeing as they force the ball out of his hands.
It was a similar story during the 2018 Eastern Conference Semifinals against Boston, when Simmons recorded a net +/- of -63 during the Sixers’ embarrassing 4-1 series loss.
The good news for Philly is that Simmons appears to be in the process of figuring out Brad Stevens’ defense. In four games against Boston this year (3-1), Simmons averaged 18.3 points, 5.8 assists, and 8.5 rebounds per game.
While that assist number still seems pretty low, Simmons did record nine assists in the team’s season opening win over the Celtics back in October.
Defensively, Simmons thrives against the C’s. Boston’s leading scorer Jayson Tatum shot just 25% against the Sixers this season when guarded by Simmons.
As far as matchups go, this is one of the tougher teams Simmons will have to deal with in the 2020 postseason. Brad Stevens has found a way to scheme the ball out of Ben’s hands, and he has his work cut out for him in guarding Tatum. While Simmons fared well against Boston this year, he’ll likely have to elevate his game even more if the Sixers end up facing them in August.
Mandatory Credit – © Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
David is a 20 year old college student at the University of Maryland. A lifelong Philadelphia sports fan who started covering the teams back in late May of 2019. After just a few months of writing for fun on a personal blog, he now reports on the 76ers for PhillySportsNetwork.com and the Phillies for Fansided.com.