June 7, 2023

Do Not Play With Your Food — Sixers vs Celtics Game 6 Preview


Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers have a chance to do something tonight they have not done since 2001. With a 3-2 lead over the Celtics, the Sixers can reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 21 years.

When the Sixers had a 3-0 lead over the Brooklyn Nets Doc Rivers’ message to the team was “You’ve got to take care of business. Don’t play with your meat.” While he later specified he meant to say food, the message remains the same. The Sixers have the Celtics on the ropes, on their home court, and they need to finish them off tonight.

The Celtics were in this exact situation last season against the Bucks. Down 3-2, they won game 6 on the Bucks’ home court and then won game 7 at home. The Sixers, and Sixers fans, have to make sure this series ends in Philadelphia.

Tonight needs to be the night Joel Embiid firmly plants his flag atop the mountain of the best players in the NBA. While he now has an MVP award, people are still waiting for the playoff success. This could finally be his moment to avenge all the demons of previous playoff failures. Embiid has been great all series, including dominating in game 5. Tonight he has a chance to have one of the statement wins in the history of the 76ers, and I expect him to show up.

The Celtics will start Robert Williams III tonight and move Al Horford to the 4. With that meaning White will be coming off the bench, the Sixers need to take advantage of the Celtics’ big lineup. Horford has been attacked in the pick-and-roll all series, and if Williams III gets in foul trouble early, the Celtics will have no choice then to give him some minutes on Embiid. With White coming off the bench Maxey needs to attack his new matchup.

Another way this plays in the Sixers’ favor is that it will allow Embiid to be closer to the rim. While he was 0-6 from three last game, Horford has the threat of a good 3-point shooter that can pull Embiid out to the line. Williams III is not a threat to shoot 3’s, so Embiid can be more confident roaming in the paint while guarding him. This will allow Embiid to be more of a rim protector, which he has been elite at all series.

If the Sixers are going to win tonight they are going to need one other player to step up. In games 1 and 4 that was James Harden. In game 5 that was Tyrese Maxey. Whether it’s Maxey or Harden, or a combination of both, the supporting cast needs to show up. The Sixers also got great minutes from House, so it will be interesting to see if Doc goes back to him.

All year I have been saying that this team is different. Well, we are about to find out if they are.

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