Sixers-Celtics: Super Bowl cities rematch

(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

A historical rivalry is revived in Round 2 of the NBA Playoffs as the Philadelphia 76ers take on the Boston Celtics.

My supervisor in work is from Boston.  It took him about a month to get over the Eagles spanking of the Patriots in the Super Bowl.  Mike, if you’re reading, I don’t think you guys will fare any better this time around.

Philadelphia 76ers-Boston Celtics, here we go!  This rivalry goes back to Wilt & Russell in the 60s and Doc & Bird in the 80s.  The Celtics have a slight edge in titles, 17-3.  So yes, it’s been a wee bit lopsided through the years, but I have an inkling that’s about to change.

The Sixers roll into this series winners of 20 of their last 21 games, including 16 in a row to end the regular season, an NBA record.  They also have the best young tandem in the league in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, surrounded by a strong supporting cast.

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The Celtics will be playing without their best player, Kyrie Irving, and All-Star forward Gordon Hayward, both of whom are out for the season.  Those injuries will engender little sympathy from the Sixers or their fans.

Did Celtics fans feel sorry for us when we lost Andrew ‘The Boston Strangler’ Toney to stress fractures back in 1985?  I don’t think so.  And yes, I still remember that.  Attrition is a part of the game and affects all teams.

To their credit, the Celtics have fought through it successfully this year, finishing the regular season with a 55-27 record and as the No. 2 seed in the East.  The playoffs, however, are a different animal.

The sub-par teams are out and the concentration of talent and competition increases exponentially, to frenetic levels.  In a seven-game series, the winners and losers boil down to matchups.  And in this one, I just don’t think the Celtics have enough firepower to stay with Philly.

The Sixers finished the regular season ranked second in points per game with 114.2, only 0.3 points behind league-leading New Orleans (yes, New Orleans led the league) at 114.5.  The Sixers also led the NBA in rebounds per game (50) and were second in assists per game with 26.6, only 0.2 points behind league-leading Golden State, who finished with 26.8.

And this trend has continued into the playoffs thus far.  The Sixers have scored the second-most points in a game (130), behind only New Orleans who had a 131-point outburst.  Philly has the most assists in a playoff game (34) and the second most rebounds (57).  They’re also tied with Houston for the most three-pointers in a game with 18, but the Sixers have done it twice, the Rockets only once.

The Celtics finished the regular season 10th in scoring per game (103.8), fifth in rebounds (44.2), 10th in assists (21), and are not in the top three of any of the offensive playoff categories listed above.

Now I’m not the most stats oriented guy, but when I looked at those numbers what jumped off the page was the Sixers’ total offensive production.  To be at or near the top in all of those categories reveals a potent, consistent, balanced offense.  They averaged 10.4 more points per game than Boston.  And they’re getting better.

In all of sports — from basketball to football to soccer, for that matter, one stat is always true.  The team that scores the most wins.

Next: 2018 NBA Draft Big Board 6.0

Series prediction:  Sixers in six games or less.  Sorry, Mike.