For just the second time this spring and the first time in the conference semifinals, we’re getting a Game 7.
The Celtics and Sixers will square off on Sunday afternoon for the right to face Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s the first Game 7 on the East’s side of the playoff bracket — the Kings and Warriors battled to seven games in the first round in the West.
It has been a back-and-forth series between Boston and Philadelphia, with the Sixers unexpectedly stealing Game 1 in Boston despite missing MVP center Joel Embiid. The Celtics responded by claiming the next two games to take a 2-1 lead, but Philadelphia fought back to go up 3-2 before dropping Game 6 at home.
As the higher seed and the home team, the Celtics are 6.5-point favorites on Sunday, according to BetOnline.ag. But the fact that the game will be played in Boston offers no guarantees for the C’s. The home team in the series has gone just 2-4 so far, with each club losing multiple games in its own arena.
While the Sixers probably know what they can expect from Embiid, who has averaged 30.8 PPG and 10.8 RPG in his last four appearances after a shaky first game back from a knee injury, what they get from the big man’s co-star may go a long way toward determining whether they can pull off the upset win in Game 7. James Harden has put up 34.7 PPG on 60.7% shooting in Philadelphia’s three victories over Boston, but has averaged just 13.7 PPG and made 20.5% of his shots from the floor in the team’s three losses.
The Celtics, meanwhile, got a boost in Game 6 when they inserted center Robert Williams into their starting lineup for the first time in the series. Williams had 10 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks in one of his best games of the postseason. The Celtics, who won the game by nine points, outscored Philadelphia by 18 points during Williams’ 28 minutes. It’s probably safe to assume he’ll start again on Sunday.
Boston will also be hoping to see the version of Jayson Tatum who showed up during the final few minutes of Thursday’s game, helping the team overcome a late deficit and secure the victory. With the Celtics down by two points with under five minutes to play, Tatum made four of his final seven shots, all three-pointers, after having hit just 1-of-14 field goal attempts up until that point.
The Celtics were the deeper, more well-rounded team during the regular season and have shown off that depth in the postseason, but the Sixers have proven in the playoffs that they’re capable of winning any game when Embiid, Harden, and Tyrese Maxey – who has averaged 23.3 PPG in Philadelphia’s victories – are firing on all cylinders.
We want to know what you think. Who are you picking to win Game 7 this afternoon?