For the 21st time in NBA history, the Philadelphia 76ers are meeting the Boston Celtics in the playoffs as they kick off their postseason series on Monday evening (6:30 p.m. ET).
The historical meeting was set up by the Sixers’ inconsistent play upon the league’s restart — which carried over from a regular-season plagued by struggles outside of Philadelphia — by going 4-4 in the eight regular-season games scheduled at the start of life in the Orlando bubble.
It saw them lose out on the No. 5 spot in the East by just one game to the Miami Heat, who will play the No. 4 Indiana Pacers.
While the Celtics are the higher seed and would seemingly provide a more difficult matchup, the 76ers handled Boston fairly well during the regular season, going 3-1 in four games before play was stopped in March.
Granted, it was a much-different Sixers team then compared to now. They’ll be without their All-Star point guard in Ben Simmons, who recently underwent successful surgery on his left kneecap subluxation.
It could have been worse with Joel Embiid battling injury issues in the bubble, but head coach Brett Brown said that Embiid is expected to be a full go against the Celtics.
But with Simmons, Brown has teased some sizable lineup changes for the first-round series, which is headlined by the prospective introduction of Matisse Thybulle into the starting lineup.
“We’re talking a lot about doing different things,” Brown said Sunday. “It is being considered.”
Putting Thybulle in means he would be the primary defender to try and shut down the likes of Boston’s explosive scorers in Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum — a responsibility that usually falls on Simmons or Josh Richardson.
But it’s an opportunity that Thybulle is ready for within a process that he’s relishing.
“For me, it’s exciting because I think that means that I’ve earned a certain level of trust from my teammates and from the coaching staff,” he said. “As everyone hypes up the playoffs — if they trust me enough in the playoffs to do my job and my role — what I’ve been trying to prove for this whole season, I think it’s exciting because I think my work has paid off. And now it’s really time to showcase everything that we’ve been preparing for.”