The playoff rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers runs deep. Now the two storied franchises will meet for the third time in six years in the NBA playoffs, and the 22nd time in their long respectivehistories.
The Celtics have the edge — thanks largely to Bill Russell and Larry Bird — 14 playoff series wins to Philadelphia’s seven.
But Jayson Tatum-era Celtics have won the past five series between the two teams, a dominance so undeniable 76ers star Joel Embiid said a few years back that “this is not a rivalry, they always kick our *ss.”
Whatever Embiid says, Sixers-Celtics is a rivalry in the minds of longtime fans, who watched Bird and Kevin McHale battle Julius Erving and Moses Malone in the 1980s. And Russell against Wilt Chamberlain before that.
Here’s what Hall of Famer Paul Pierce, leader of the Celtics squad that won the 2008 NBA title, had to say about it:
“Every time we play Philly, it’s a rivalry game. They’re always tough. It’s like when we play them, we don’t like them and they don’t like us. It’s like two brothers who don’t get along. We’re going to fight, we’re going to argue, we’re going to battle, and then at the end of the day, we’re still brothers.”Paul Pierce
And Larry Bird, who once came to blows with Erving on the court, disliked Philly so much he hated the whole city, not just the Sixers. Bird said:
“I’ve never been afraid to say that Philadelphia is my least favorite city. I mean, I respect the people there, I just don’t like the city. It’s bad luck for me, bad things always seem to happen to me there.”Larry Bird
Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce’s partner in Celtics 2008 glory, had this to say about the 76ers-Celtics rivalry:
“Playing against Philly, it’s just intense. There’s a lot of history behind it. You can feel it in the arena. They’re a great team, they’ve always been a great team. It’s just that Philly and Boston, man, it’s a rivalry that’s been there for years. We both know it. It’s hard to explain it. You just feel it.”Kevin Garnett
The 76ers-Celtics second round series begins Monday at 7:30 at the TD Garden in Boston. It’s a parquet day.