Without Simmons, many, even in Philadelphia, have seemingly given up on Philadelphia winning this series. That is certainly premature though as the team still has some remarkable talent and has even shown some depth as of late.
The Sixers can win the series but they will have to take it one step at a time. That first leap will come on Monday night.
MATCH-UP OF THE GAME
TOBIAS HARRIS VERSUS JAYSON TATUM
While Joel Embiid will be the star of the show for Philly, the match-up to focus on will be the offensive duel between Tobias Harris and the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum.
Harris has really stepped up has a leader both on and off the court for Philadelphia. The Sixers will need Harris to play his best basketball yet if he’s to suffocate the Celtics young scorer.
Jayson Tatum meanwhile has been only getting better since he was drafted by the Celtics. A true scoring threat, Tatum has averaged 25 points per game over his last six games.
The two stretch forwards will try to go shot for shot with each other to give their team the edge in this series opener.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
SIXERS – MATISSE THYBULLE
The young rook will be thrown into the fire against a versatile Boston offense and everyone will be watching to see how he responds. To add even further juice to this storyline, Thybulle was drafted by the Celtics and traded to the Sixers.
At the time, the trade seemed like yet another Danny Ainge robbery. So far though, the Sixers have ended up with the clear best player in that trade and it may end up being the first trade Philadelphia has won since the Hinkie administration.
What Thybulle will have to focus on in this game, really this series, is what he does best; defense. The Sixers will need Thybulle to be at the top of his defensive game as he is now the team’s best defender outside of the post.
Brett Brown will have a plethora of players for Thybulle to guard and it’s likely he ends up guarding the hot hand.
Where he’ll likely start though is the Celtic’s player to watch.
CELTICS – KEMBA WALKER
The Celtics are stacked with offensive options from Jayson Tatum to Jaylen Brown to Gordon Hayward, and let’s not forget about Kemba Walker. The Celtics signed Walker in the offseason and so far he’s been a great addition.
Walker is a “walking” bucket for lack of a better term and he sets opposing defenses on fire, especially the 76ers’. Expect Walker to be primarily guarded by Matisse Thybulle though Shake Milton and his 7-foot wingspan could be thrown into the mix.
The Sixers did a quality job defending Walker in their first match-up this season allowing only 12 points but he has since returned to his offensive form. Walker has since scored 29 and 26 points in his two games against the Sixers since.
Cardiac Kemba is as electric as they come. The Sixers will have to keep a close eye on Walker and do their best to keep him in check.
SIXERS, CELTICS TIP-OFF
Game one will take place Monday, August 17th with a 6:30 PM EST tip-off. You can watch the game on ESPN and if you prefer to listen live, you can as always at 97.5 FM the Fanatic.
This series will either be extremely fun or horrifically depressing. Hopefully the former but that will be decided by Brett Brown and Joel Embiid.
Mandatory Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
Lead Philadelphia 76ers writer for Philly Sports Network. Follow me on Twitter @ZCiavoPSN and follow the rest of our team for more quality content.
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