Should the Celtics be on upset alert against Sixers in Round 2?

A Philly perspective on how Sixers stack up with Celtics in Round 2 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics enter yet another NBA playoff series with expectations to advance.

The No. 2 seed Celtics are heavily favored in their second-round playoff matchup with the No. 3 seed Philadelphia 76ers -- despite needing six games to finish off the Atlanta Hawks in Round 1, and despite Philly coming off a clean sweep of the Brooklyn Nets in Round 1.

Scroll to continue with content

Why so bullish on Celtics over the Sixers, who have won 18 of their last 24 games and are well-rested after wrapping up their first-round series last Saturday? NBC Sports Philadelphia's Danny Pommells joined NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg on new Celtics Talk podcast to preview the series and spotlighted Boston's deep rotation as its biggest strength.

Celtics Talk: Will Joel Embiid be healthy for Celtics vs. Sixers series? And who emerges? | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"I envy Boston's depth and interchangeability," Pommells noted. "It's funny, some things just haven't changed with you guys. They tried to put Jaylen Brown on Trae (Young) in Game 5, but when it came down to crunch time and when it mattered most (in Game 6), it was Marcus Smart face-guarding him on the opposite side of the court, not even looking at the ball.

"The Jaylen Brown thing will work on 98 percent of teams in the league, but there's also this other guy that we have who we can stick on the opposing team's best scorer. So I think that interchangeability and the depth with Derrick White, Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams coming off the bench, it's like, wait a minute: there are eight starters that you guys are throwing at opposing teams."


The Celtics are a very deep team on paper and owned their regular-season series with the Sixers, winning three of four games. The postseason history is a factor as well, as Philly has lost five straight playoff series against Boston dating to 1982.

But despite all of those factors, Pommells still sees a blueprint for the Sixers pulling off the upset -- in fact, he's predicting it.

Forsberg: Only one team can stop the Celtics in 2023 playoffs

"I'm going Sixers in seven," Pommells said. "I'm gonna say that somehow, some way, there is a game-winning buzzer-beater that factors into the series to kind of sway things.


"They've been really evenly matched during the regular season. Even early on in those first two games when they played the Celtics, that wasn't necessarily a blowout. ... And obviously the Jayson Tatum buzzer-beater, that was just amazing to watch -- a great game that also sticks out.

"Hopefully Embiid doesn't have to play at that 52-point, MVP-level type of way in order for them to win games. But I think the Sixers have a chance considering the landscape of the NBA. I think something's in the water, Chris. Something's in the water!"

To Pommells' point, we've seen unusual parity in the 2023 postseason: The Miami Heat became just the fifth No. 8 seed ever to upset a No. 1 seed (the Milwaukee Bucks), while the No. 7 seed Los Angeles Lakers are one game away from eliminating the No. 2 Memphis Grizzlies.


And while the Celtics have the edge over Philly in the win column, three of their four regular-season matchups were decided by seven points or fewer. That could give Sixers fans hope of knocking off a Boston team that ran into trouble when it took its foot off the gas in Atlanta.

To hear more Celtics-Sixers preview talk from Pommells and Forsberg, including the X-factor to watch and Al Horford's extra motivation, subscribe to the Celtics Talk Podcast or watch on YouTube below.