BOSTON – A few hours before the end of the first game of their playoff series against the Celtics, the young Philadelphia 76ers received a history lesson.
Sixers coach Brett Brown showed his players the video of his previous encounters two franchises that included bouts between Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, and Larry Bird and Julius Erving on Monday morning.
"Before we even went to Xs and Os and Scouting Band, look at the story here," Brown said of his message to the Six. "It's a real kind of knowledge base of our two organizations, it's something historical, it's something very special … [The] Series in which we all play and participate, there's been a lot going on for a long time This is worth knowing about. "
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"There is a deep story between the two teams – truly two of the most traditional franchises in NBA history," said seasoned Philadelphia guard JJ Redick on Sunday. "It's obviously an honor to play in this rivalry."
The Sixers and Celtics have met 19 times in the playoffs; Boston has won 12 of these series. Sixers-Star Joel Embiid studied the rivalry during Philadelphia's five-day break between the first and second rounds. The most unforgettable moment?
"Dr J and Larry Bird hold each other's necks," said Embiid, referring to the fight between Bird and Erving during a regular season early in the 1984-85 season.
Embiid said Erving's message in the video on Monday morning pointed to the intensity of the rivalry between Celtics and Sixers. "That's the kind of moments I live for, so I'm excited," said Embiid.
Joel Embiid has worn a mask to protect his broken eye socket since returning to court in Game 3 against the heat. But he said on Monday he was looking forward to getting rid of the "annoying" mask.
This will be only the third playoff series between Boston and Philadelphia in the last 32 years
The Sixers have a talented young core, led by Embiid, 24, and the 21-year-old point guard Ben Simmons. The Celtics have their own young core, with Kyrie Irving, top newcomer Jayson Tatum – selected with a pick that was acquired in a deal with Philadelphia – young wing Jaylen Brown and guardian / striker Gordon Hayward.
The Celtics, however, are on that playoff without their star, Irving, who had season-end knee surgery in April, and new acquisition Hayward, who was lost to an ankle injury in the first game for the season.
Faced with young talents, Embiid believes that this may be the first of several playoff meetings between the two franchises.
"I think if you look at the whole league and talk about the future of the league, we're up there," he said, "so it'll be fun in the years to come."