If the Sixers are to pull off a first-round upset in their opening playoff series against the Boston Celtics, they’re going to have to do it without All-Star point guard Ben Simmons.
Simmons, who underwent surgery earlier this week to remove a loose body from his injured left knee, is expected to miss the best-of-7 series in its entirety. However, according to Celtics Brad Stevens, the Sixers offense is better off without Simmons on the floor.
Stevens offered a sneak preview into next week’s potential first-round series against the Sixers, explaining how important the players who surround Simmons are for Philadelphia and why he believes they’re the league’s No. 1 offense when Simmons is out.
Philly’s ‘Other Guys’
“We’ve been looking at Philly, obviously, with the idea that they’re a likely opponent and they’re a heck of a team,” Stevens said. “In the games that (Ben) Simmons hasn’t played, they’re the no. 1 offense in the league. And the spacing, the shooting around, Embiid posting, the ability to play both bigs with Embiid and Al, and then small with one of those two guys at the 5 with a bunch of shooters around them – makes them very tough.
“Superphysical, well-coached, good basketball team, obviously, everybody talks about their frontcourt – rightfully so, with Harris, Horford, and Embiid – but they got a lot of good players on that basketball team.”
Winners of two-out-of-three regular-season matchups, the Sixers suffered a 21-point blowout loss the last time these two teams met. But Stevens isn’t looking too deep into the last few meetings between Boston and Philly, knowing the drastic changes and sacrifices forced by the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on everyone in many different ways.
“I think everybody is pretty familiar with each other by the end of the season but we’ve all changed a little,” Stevens said. “Again, we’ve been working on potential playoff opponents for a while, as everyone else has, that’s not unique to us and we’ll get ready to play on Monday or Tuesday.
“I think the biggest thing we would like to know and everyone else would like to know is which day are we playing because that obviously impacts our practice plans and all that other stuff.”
Al Horford’s Impact
With Simmons out, Sixers head coach Brett Brown will turn to former Celtic Al Horford for additional production on both ends of the floor. Horford will be entering his 12th postseason appearance.
He was one of the Celtics’ most important players throughout Boston’s previous three playoff runs – Stevens’ defensive anchor who provided efficient scoring in the paint and from the perimeter. Stevens talked about Horford’s impact and how it affects a playoff series.
“Al’s an excellent player,” Stevens said. “Al knows how to play; he’s an excellent player on both ends. He understands what they’re trying to accomplish as a team. Obviously, great playoff moments and regular-season moments for us. We obviously have the utmost respect for him and understand all the good things he brings to the table.”
The NBA will conclude its seeding games schedule Friday night before announcing the league’s official playoff schedule.