Boston Celtics: Ranking the C’s 3 most likely first round playoff opponents

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /
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Boston Celtics
James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

Boston Celtics potential first round playoff opponent No. 3: Philadelphia 76ers

Of the three most likely teams, it’s very obvious the Celtics don’t want to run into the 76ers this early on. For a long time this didn’t really seem like a remote possibility, but Philly has gone just 3-4 over the past seven games, and have fallen all the way down to the four seed for the time being. The 76ers have lost three straight games now, and will finish the season off with a stretch of six games in eight days.

Of course, of the three teams in this discussion, Philadelphia is the least likely first round opponent for Boston. They still have a 1.5 game lead over both the Raptors and Bulls, and considering the amount of talent they have on their roster, it seems unlikely either team will catch them at this point.

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The 76ers and Celtics split their season series at two apiece, but we haven’t seen a game with both teams as currently constructed. The C’s manhandled the Sixers 135-87 in their most recent game, but Philly’s shiny new acquisition, James Harden, wasn’t active for that game. The Harden/Joel Embiid pairing has had mixed results so far, but playing them in the first round would obviously be less than ideal.

Boston has displayed the ability to blow Philly out of the water, but it wouldn’t be that simple in the playoffs, especially considering the C’s would be without Williams for the entire series. Embiid and Harden are two of the best offensive players in the league, and while the Celtics still probably have the ability to match up with them, doing so without Williams is a much more daunting task.

Unless Philly contines to spiral out of control (or Boston goes on a losing streak of their own), these two teams won’t match up in the first round. A later round matchup, in which Williams would hopefully be active, would be much more favorable for the Celtics, but for now, it would be best if these two teams didn’t meet right off the bat.