KISSIMMEE, Fla. – This is the 24th edition of the weekly 76ers mailbag.
Each week, Inquirer.com followers may submit questions to be answered.
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Answer: What’s up, B-Money? I hope you and the family are well and staying safe during this pandemic.
I’ve been thinking a lot about your questions. The Sixers match up well against the Celtics at the center position. Boston doesn’t have many bigs. Daniel Theis, at 6-foot-8, is the starting center. The problem is the Celtics’ small lineup forces Al Horford to guard a perimeter guy.
Personally, I think the Celtics are better on the wing positions. I think they’re tougher with Marcus Smart. I’m sure that you’re aware that two-time All-Star Ben Simmons is sidelined indefinitely after suffering a temporary partial dislocation of his left kneecap on Wednesday. Without Simmons, I would say the Celtics would be favored to win the playoff series. With him, Sixers center Joel Embiid would have to play at an MVP level for Philly to win.
The Celtics have always tried to tire out Embiid by running the big fella on every play. I’m sure they’ll do that and double team Embiid in an attempt to make him give up the ball. Brad Stevens is a good coach, and he’ll try to find ways to limit the three-time All-Star center’s imprint on the game.
With that, the advantage goes to Boston although the Sixers won three of four regular-season meetings. I actually think Boston and Miami are both better than Philly, even with Simmons, based on how the Sixers struggled in their first three seeding games.
The Heat have the revenge factor with Jimmy Butler. The small forward would be motivated to face his old team. Don’t dismiss his ability to get in their heads.
Miami has centers who could compete with Embiid and better three-pointer shooters. Comparing the coaches, Erik Spoelstra is one of the better coaches in the league -- like Stevens.
That gives the Heat another advantage.
A: What’s up, Stacy? What do you think, I’m Nostradamus? How are you going to ask me predict the future like I’m the famed French astrologer and physician of the early 1500s who’s been credited for accurately predicting pivotal events in history?
While I’m kidding with you, it is tough to predict. The Sixers’ four remaining opponents are the Portland Trail Blazers (Sunday), the Phoenix Suns (Tuesday), the Toronto Raptors (Wednesday) and the Houston Rockets (Friday).
The Trail Blazers and Suns have yet to be eliminated from postseason contention. So one has to expect them to play hard. I look for the Raptors and Rockets to rest players due to already securing postseason berths.
I wouldn’t expect Embiid or Tobias Harris to play in all three of the final games. I definitely don’t expect Embiid to play in both games of the back-to-back.
The biggest thing for the Sixers now is getting a rotation and rhythm down without Simmons. That’s the goal for the last four games. Wins and losses really don’t matter. But just to loosely throw something out there, and I mean loosely, I would say they finish 2-2.
A: Yes, it is, and great observation, man. One can make that argument. I have to see them do it against an elite team. Right now, I saw them coexist well against two struggling and undermanned teams. I would like like to see it against an elite playoff squad.
They did look good against the Detroit Pistons the night of March 11 in the Sixers’ final game before the NBA shutdown. They also played well in Friday night’s 108-101 victory over the Orlando Magic.
Back on March 11, Embiid had a team-high 30 points to go with a game-high 14 rebounds after missing the previous five games with a left shoulder sprain. Horford had 20 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 blocks.
In addition to serving as the starting power forward, Horford also was Embiid’s backup at center. As you remember, that was the eighth and final game that Simmons missed with a pinched nerve in his lower back.
The belief was that Embiid and Horford couldn’t coexist. However, the problem had to do with Embiid, Horford and Simmons all being on the floor together. One can argue that the spacing was bad due to Simmons’ hesitancy to shoot in the perimeter. As a result, Sixers lacked spacing as teams packed the paint.
Similar to the game against the Pistons, the spacing wasn’t a problem against the Magic. Embiid finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds, while Horford had 21 points and 9 rebounds.