Starting Wings: Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum vs Robert Covington and Ben Simmons
(Note: This assumes Jaylen Brown will play at some point in the series. He’s doubtful to play Game 1 with a right hamstring injury.)
With the guess that Redick will draw Rozier, that leaves Covington and Simmons to guard Brown and Tatum. The Boston duo has the athletic advantage. Both Brown and Tatum should be able to get to the basket against either Philly defender. Simmons likes to use his size and length to play off the players he’s guarding. This allows him to get into passing lanes and create turnovers. He’s also good at recovering and contesting. Because of this, whoever he’s guarding, has to be ready to shoot right off the catch. Brown has been doing this regularly. Tatum might need to speed up his release on the plays where he draws Simmons.
Covington remains a shooter you have to guard, while being a plus defender. For most of the regular season, the Celtics hid Irving on Covington. You can get away with this strategy, because Covington isn’t a threat off the dribble or to get inside off post-ups. Rozier may draw Covington, especially if Marcus Smart has to start, should Brown miss some time. Smart will probably cover Redick while Rozier can hide on Covington.
And yet another cross-match comes into play here. If Horford is guarding Simmons, that likely leaves Tatum on Dario Saric. Tatum has defended 2-4 this year with little challenges, so that shouldn’t be a problem for the Celtics, despite Saric’s improve play this season.
Finally, if Smart starts in place of Brown, that is likely who Simmons guards. That could cause problems for the Celtics, as Simmons will simply play a free safety role. Because of his size, that will give Boston fits trying to get the ball inside. Smart will have to be on the attack and aggressive to make up for it.
Advantage: Celtics, if Brown is healthy. 76ers, if Brown is limited. This one is really close, but Boston gets the slight edge here, assuming health for Brown. The Celtics kids can really play and Covington simply hasn’t been the same player this year. He’s still good, but he’s the player teams can guard easiest in the Philadelphia starting group. And Boston can take advantage of their athleticism on offense. If Smart has to start for Boston, this swings the 76ers way by a decent margin. Smart is just too limited on offense to make an impact and it frees up Simmons to be a menace on defense.