Pinpointing X-factors for Sixers-Celtics 2nd-round series

NBC Sports Philadelphia Staff
NBC Sports Philadelphia

After a five-day layoff, the Sixers get back to playoff action with Game 1 of their best-of-seven second-round series against the Boston Celtics (8 p.m./TNT).

All of the numbers have been calculated and the matchups broken down. So who will make the ultimate difference in the clash? Here are our X-factors.

Matt Haughton: JJ Redick
If there was one constant from the Sixers' series against the Heat, it was solid production from Redick. That's saying something because the veteran sharpshooter hasn't always been at his best on the NBA's biggest stage.

Redick averaged 20.0 points per game in the first round on 45.5 percent shooting from the field. And while his three-point percentage took a significant dip (35.1 percent compared to 42.0 percent during the regular season), he was able to counter that with a boost at the free throw line.

Redick shot 27 of 29 from the charity stripe in the the five-game series, including a perfect 10-for-10 performance in the clincher. The 5.8 attempts a night are double that of any other Redick postseason run.

With Boston boasting several tough defenders in its backcourt, Redick's ability to keep knocking down shots and getting to the line will be a huge key to the Sixers' fate.

Paul Hudrick: Dario Saric
Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have put this Sixers' team in great position heading into the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics. But Saric is the player that could push the Sixers over the top.

Saric shot extremely well in Games 1-3 vs. the Heat, but struggled from the field during Games 5 and 6. In the first three games of the series, Saric averaged 21.3 points per game on 44 percent from the field and 48 percent from three. Despite scoring a combined 19 points and shooting 27 percent in the next two contests, Saric continued to make winning plays and shoot the ball with confidence.

This series will certainly be a tough test for Saric, who should spend a lot of time matched up against All-Star Al Horford. Horford was the Celtics' leading scorer in their first-round series against the Bucks (18.1) and was incredibly efficient (22.5 PER). Horford is also battle tested, having played in 99 career playoff games.

When Saric's shot is falling like it did early in the Miami series, the Sixers are a tough team to beat. He'll have his work cut out for him vs. Boston.

Noah Levick: Amir Johnson
OK, so Embiid obviously matters a lot more than Johnson in this series. Don't discount Johnson's importance, though. How the Sixers play when Embiid is out will be a major factor against Boston.

Johnson, the former Celtic, was quietly excellent against the Heat. His 121.5 offensive rating was actually the best of any player in the first round of the playoffs. Of course, Johnson isn't the one directly creating most of the Sixers' points, but it's an encouraging sign that the offense was able to play fast (104.65 pace with Johnson on the floor, also the highest of any player) and effectively in those minutes without Embiid.

The intangibles Johnson brings to the table shouldn't be underestimated either. He's been here before, and the Sixers should be able to rely on a consistent, tough effort from him against Celtic big men Horford and Aron Baynes.

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