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It’s fair to say the Philadelphia 76ers are in championship-or-bust mode right now. Joel Embiid is quickly approaching the age of 30, and his prime won’t last much longer with how injury-prone he’s been throughout his career. James Harden also has the ability to skip town in the offseason, so this is likely going to be his last playoff run with the team.

If everything goes right for the Sixers in the playoffs — and I mean everything — this team has the ability to make a run to the NBA Finals. But all it will take to end Philadelphia’s season is a matchup against the Boston Celtics in the postseason. Unless another team knocks out the title favorites early, the 76ers are doomed.

The Celtics are the 76ers’ kryptonite

Another day, another heartbreak for Philly fans everywhere.

On Saturday night, the 76ers hosted the Celtics in a crucial game to shape the Eastern Conference standings. Philadelphia had a chance to creep within two games of the No. 1 seed with a win, but it came up short against its biggest rival once again.

The Sixers looked to be in control when they took a 15-point lead early in the third quarter, but the Celtics immediately responded with a run of their own to take a two-point lead into the fourth. After stretching the lead to 10, Boston let up on the gas and allowed Philadelphia tie the game with 10 seconds left.

But Jayson Tatum, as he’s done a handful of times in his career, buried the Sixers with a game-winning three in the final seconds. To make matters worse, Joel Embiid drained a 70-foot prayer as the buzzer sounded, but it left his land 0.1 seconds too late.

Boston’s dominance of Philadelphia is evident every time these two teams step on the floor. The Celtics have now won all three matchups against the 76ers this season, and they’ve won four straight dating back to last year.

The NBA’s best team has owned the Embiid-led Sixers for years, and that won’t change if they face off in the 2023 playoffs.

The 76ers are doomed in the playoffs if they play the Celtics

Joel Embiid walks off the court against the Celtics.
Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers walks off the court after losing to the Boston Celtics | Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Since Embiid made his NBA debut in 2016, the 76ers are 11-15 against the Celtics in the regular season. The rivals have also faced off in the playoffs twice in that span. Boston won in five games in 2018, and it swept Philadelphia rather easily in 2020.

Including postseason games, the Sixers are 12-23 against the Celtics during Embiid’s tenure. Philadelphia has never possessed the pieces to match up with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and the Celtics’ team-oriented style of play has always bested the Sixers’ one-man show.

Embiid was spectacular on Saturday night, as he’s been for the entire season. The big man finished with 41 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and three blocks, and that still wasn’t enough to beat Boston even with Tatum struggling with his jumper for most of the game.

The Celtics are simply deeper, more well-coached, and more talented at key positions than the 76ers, and they’ll win a playoff series even if Philadelphia plays to its full potential. The Sixers’ only hope of making it out of the Eastern Conference is if another team knocks the Celtics out in the first or second round.

If not, the 76ers are doomed to suffer yet another pre-NBA Finals exit.


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