Philadelphia 76ers season series preview: Boston Celtics

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Philadelphia 76ers
FILE – Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, center left, talks with players during the first half of Game 2 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, Sunday, June 5, 2022. The Boston Celtics are planning to discipline coach Ime Udoka, likely with a suspension, because of an improper relationship with a member of the organization, two people with knowledge of the matter told The Associated Press on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn, File)

Not only are the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics both set to be the top two teams in the Atlantic Division, they also both got there by making stark improvements this past summer to some already-formidable rosters.

The Philadelphia 76ers re-inked James Harden to a team-friendly deal that enabled Team President Daryl Morey to beef up the roster’s 3-and-D prowess by signing P.J. Tucker and Danuel House in free agency.

Celtics President Brad Stevens didn’t sit complacent after building a roster that led Boston to the Finals for the first time since 2010. Rather than make the same classic mistake that many GMs past have committed — relying on internal development and rookie contributions for improvement — Stevens identified the few weaknesses in his team and tried to fill those holes this past summer.

The most notable addition came when they traded a package that included 2020 lottery pick Aaron Nesmith, Daniel Theis, and their 2023 first-rounder in exchange for former Indiana Pacer Malcolm Brogdon. While he’s struggled with injury during his three-year stint with the Pacers, he proved to be a capable ball-handler and two-way playmaker when he was on the floor.

Boston’s greatest roster deficit last season and throughout their Finals run was their severe lack of shot creation. The offense leaned heavily on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s isolation scoring and tough three-point shot-making roster wide. Far too often, the Cs offense would get severely bogged down and they had no real floor general to jump-start their attack. Brogdon will go a long way towards keeping Boston’s offense steady, even when the Jays are cold — provided he can stay healthy.

The Celtics also tried to address their wing depth by trading for Italian sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari. Although he would have been a major boon for their size, outside shooting, and playmaking, he’ll likely miss the entirety of the 2022-2023 NBA season and playoffs with a torn left ACL that he suffered during a FIBA World Cup qualifying game.

Stevens got busy to try to replace the Gallinari’s presence by dealing out training camp deals to a triumvirate of wings consisting of Justin Jackson, Jake Layman, and Denzel Valentine. While none of those players should strike fear into the Philadelphia 76ers’ hearts, they could turn out to be useful depth in the regular season, especially considering that the Celtics still have three open roster spots.

Between Joel Embiid, James Harden, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown, the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics are toe-to-toe in terms of top-tier star power. Each team has a multitude of high-end role players as well such as Tucker, Robert Williams III, and Grant Williams. The x-factors for this matchup will be the borderline All-Stars on each team. How well Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, Marcus Smart, and Malcolm Brogdon play will likely be the deciding factor in each contest.

Last season, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics split their season series 2-2.

Celtics Head Coach Ime Udoka has officially been hit with a suspension that will keep him away from the team for the entirety of the 2022-2023 NBA season. He brought on this furlough by violating the team’s code of conduct and possibly engaging in a non-consensual relationship with a fellow Celtics employee.

Per Adrian Wojnarowski, Assistant Coach Joe Mazzulla — who’s had his own questionable moral history — is set to step in as the interim for Udoka. Mazzulla should be able to seamlessly carry on Udoka’s vision for the team and keep the Cs steadfast to their system on both ends of the court. It will be interesting to see if Boston can continue to be one of the better teams at making in-game adjustments without their head coach on the sidelines.

Nearly all of the Philadelphia 76ers’ games against Boston will take place after the All-Star break, so the Cs should have their rhythm down even with Mazzulla running the show.

Philadelphia 76ers/Boston Celtics Quick Stats

  1. The Boston Celtics were the best 3-point defending team in the league last year, allowing opponents to shoot only 33.7 percent from beyond the arc according to NBA.com. That trend held up even better against the Philadelphia 76ers, as the team mustered a pitiful 40-129 (31 percent) mark from deep against the Cs last season.
  2. Both Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris struggled heavily against Boston in 2021-2022. Maxey averaged 13.3 points on 35 percent shooting from the field. Harris put up 14 points per game while slashing 44/31/86.
  3. The Boston Celtics were red-hot from deep in both of their victories over the Philadelphia 76ers last season. They tallied 11 made triples in their first win on 39 percent marks and topped that with 25 3-pointers made on 56 percent shooting in their May contest.

Games

October 18, 2022: PHI @ BOS

February 8, 2023: PHI @ BOS

February 25, 2023: BOS @ PHI

April 4, 2023: BOS @ PHI

Prediction

Push (2-2)

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