NBA Playoffs: Can Joel Embiid Lead Ben Simmons-Less Sixers Past Celtics?

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Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Chris Mannix believes the 2020 NBA Playoff race is as unpredictable as they come. For SI's Daily Cover story on Monday, Mannix previewed the playoffs, which are set to tip-off on Monday afternoon. 

Considering the unusual circumstances, it's hard to believe that some of the top teams within both conferences aren't at a disadvantage, becoming prone to potential upsets. And the third-seeded Boston Celtics are no different in the East.

"Even though you have the top-seed [teams] as a favorite, I look at the top seeds as being maybe more vulnerable than ever," Mannix told SI's, Robin Lundberg. While the Los Angeles Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks are the two powerhouses, which could be at a disadvantage, the Celtics are in a somewhat similar position.

The sixth-seeded 76ers underwhelmed during the 2019-2020 NBA season -- there's really no denying that. But just because they've come up way short of their preseason aspirations and are even without a top star in Ben Simmons, Philly shouldn't be counted out. As I joined Mannix and Lundberg on Monday's Daily Cover action, I laid down the reality of the Sixers' situation against Boston in the first round.

The Recap

"The loss of Ben Simmons is going to be a lot more significant than many believe. A lot is going to ride on Joel Embiid, who is already dealing with a few minor injuries of his own. That's been the story of the whole season for the Sixers, really. I think drawing Boston is probably the best-case scenario for the Sixers since they've had struggles with Miami and Indiana -- also Toronto and Milwaukee. It's definitely going to be tough for the Sixers to defeat Boston. Their defense is going to take a hit without Simmons, and relying on Embiid's health is definitely a big risk in the playoffs."

A healthy Joel Embiid offers a nightmare matchup for Boston. Also, recent history is on the Sixers' side as Philly has defeated the Celtics three out of four times this year. Ben Simmons or not, the 76ers have a chance to compete with the Celtics in this series, but if Embiid can't stay on the floor, the Sixers will be heading back to Philadelphia early.

Click Here to read Sports Illustrated's Daily Cover for Monday, previewing the NBA Playoffs. Also, follow SI's 76ers beat writer Justin Grasso on Twitter: @JGrasso_