2023 Eastern Conference Semifinals Preview

AJ Tarzia '24, Junior Sports Editor

Entering the second round of the 2022-23 NBA playoffs the two seeded Boston Celtics face off against a strong and lengthy 3 seeded Philadelphia 76ers team led by MVP front-runner Joel Embiid. These two teams are no strangers to each other in the playoffs. Last year in the semifinals the Celtics topped the 76ers before falling just short against the Warriors in the NBA Finals. 

In the first round of the playoffs, the Celtics faced the seven seeded Atlanta Hawks. Coming off of a play-in game win against the Miami Heat, Trae Young and the Hawks looked to shock the world and send home a Celtics team that many saw as their favorites to win the NBA championship. Despite an incredible series from Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, the Celtics won the series 4-2. 

The three seeded 76ers played against a newly assembled six seeded Brooklyn Nets team led by Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson. During the regular season, the Nets made two blockbuster trades sending All-Star Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns and Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks. Once these two All-Stars left, the team began to gear up for a deep run in the playoffs. Harden, facing off against his former team the Nets, looked to prove that he could win games elsewhere. Bridges and the Nets were not able to complete the upset and Harden and the 76ers swept the Nets 4-0.

The Celtics and the 76ers played four times throughout the regular season with Boston winning three of the four encounters. Both teams have All-Star players that can put their team on their backs when things aren’t going their way. Jayson Tatum and Joel Embiid have both had historic seasons and averaged 20+ points per game. Although both teams have star players, what makes the difference in the playoffs is the bench and role players. This sets the Celtics apart from the 76ers and many other teams in the league because they play an eight to nine man rotation (subbing three to four players off the bench and rotating them with the 5 starters). Boston also has the Sixth Man of the Year winner Malcolm Brogdon averaging 15 points per game coming off their bench. 

In my opinion, the Boston Celtics will be advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals after defeating the 76ers in 6 games (4-2). The Celtics coming off a series against the Hawks have their entire lineup healthy and ready to play. Unlike the Celtics, 76ers star Joel Embiid suffered a sprained LCL in his right knee during Game 3 of the first round and currently is listed as doubtful for Game 1 against the Celtics. Without Embiid the 76ers are lacking a true scorer and will need players like Tyrese Maxey and James Harden to step up and make up for Embiid’s 27.2 points per game. Also, the depth of the Celtics will be too strong for the 76ers to handle. Malcolm Brogdon, Grant Williams, and Sam Hauser coming off the bench will have the 76ers on their heels. Another factor that I think will weigh into a Celtics victory is the fans in the TD Garden. The National Basketball Player Association voted that Celtics fans are the best fans in the league. Since the Celtics are the higher seeded team, if the Celtics only win their home games, they will play game 7 at home and they will have a good chance with the help of the Boston crowd. 

Despite the history between the Celtics and 76ers, the playoffs are completely different from the regular season. Anything can happen in the playoffs and either one of these teams has a good chance of going on to win the Eastern Conference after this series and would likely meet the Western Conference Champion in the NBA Finals. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals will be played tonight at 7:30 in the TD Garden.