BEN Simmons and Joel Embiid are finding out what NBA playoffs are really about.
After sending Miami Heat in five matches in the first round of their first career late season appearance, Philadelphia 76ers youth will open the Thursday semifinals on Tuesday in Boston against Celtics.
All the banners hanging
All the story on the parquet floor.
All the bad blood between the two cities.
A bourgeois rivalry dating back to the era of Revolutionary War came to age at the basketball court with Wilt Chamberlain, leading the Philadelphia Warriors, and later 76ers against Bill Russell's Celtics in the 1960s. Larry Bird and Julius Erving picked it up in the 1980s.
So Allen Iverson-led 76ers went to the NBA Finals in 2001 but lost to Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker's Celtics in the Eastern Conference final the following year.
Franchises have met 19 times in the final game (only three times in the last 33 years) where Boston has a 12-7 edge.
Two years after winning only 10 games, the reconstruction "Process" is paying for 76ers.
Simmons, the No. 1 overall pick in 2016 before missing the entire last season, an average of 18.2 points and 10.6 rebounds against Heat – both improvements over his regular season figures.
Celtics veteran Al Horford is fully aware of the problem that the young Aussie presents and goes so far as saying that his team had to be more "solid" against Simmons than it was in a first round matchup with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
"It's different in the sense that Ben just has the ability to really distribute the ball really well," said Horford after Celtics held their first movie session in preparation Game 1. "His ability to read only defense "It's just impressive for a rookie to have that kind of poise and do it. With Giannis, it was more of him who went one-on-one and tried to score." Simmons will try to do a bit of everything. " "More than enough, any opponent we've confronted, we must remain as solid as possible," added Horford. "Because he is a very smart player and he will take advantage of everything you give him."
Boston has many options to protect Simmons, including Semi Ojeleye, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart.
But Celtic's coach Brad Stevens threw another name in the mix – Australia's great man, Aron Baynes, whom he described as "one of the best defenders in the league".
"I thought some of our best possessions against Giannis were with Bayne's guardians," said Stevens. "Of course Semi more than anyone, but Baynes is able to move sideways, keep the guys in front, make them take shot with him between them and the basket, and that's what you eventually want."
Embiid, the third overall pick 2014, returned after missing the first two games in playoffs and an average of 18.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in three victories over Miami.
"They are super talented," said Stevens. "That's what happens when you're in NBA playoffs. It's funny."
Celtics kept Antetokounmpo to zero fast pause in Game 7 in their first round series.
They know that the transition will also be a key to Philadelphia, which was one of the best in the NBA in the break.
"In transition they just make you," said Celtic's center Al Horford. "They are just presenting a completely different challenge."
Stevens said that Brown still had some soreness from a hamstring injury he maintained in Game 7 and is doubtful for Game 1 against Sixers. The total number 3 in the 2016 draft, Brown was on average 14.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per. Play this season.
He said on Saturday that he would be back. "Whatever it takes, I would not miss this series to the world," said Brown.
Celtics are already without stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, as well as Daniel Theis.