So, how was the landing in 2020?
“It’s been bumpy,” Brown admitted on Sunday, citing some injury and uncertainty.
That being said — based on the team’s spirit, depth, talent, and Joel Embiid, among other factors — Brown still thinks this team can make a run.
“I believe that we are built for the playoffs,” Brown said after Friday’s win against the Rockets, “and I look forward to playing Boston.”
In a perfect world, a Sixers-Celtics matchup might seem somewhat favorable to Brown’s squad, which went 3-1 against Boston in the regular season. But that was a long time ago.
All-Star Ben Simmons is now out indefinitely after undergoing knee surgery. The Sixers have dealt with other smaller-scale injuries that continue to deny their regulars valuable time playing together and building chemistry.
So when Brown says there’s uncertainty, that’s a fair statement. However, the seventh-year head coach isn’t projecting a woe-is-me attitude.
“You’re very reliant right now on a togetherness, you’re reliant on Joel, you’re reliant on a well-executed game plan,” he said.
Brown isn’t the only one who is understandably banking a lot on Embiid. At the top of his game, he’s arguably one of the best players in the sport.
Without giving away too many secrets, forward Tobias Harris indicated what the Sixers hope for against Boston: “We have the most dominant big man in the game, so using Joel on the block and having him go to work.”
“We clearly need a healthy Joel Embiid,” Brown added. “Nobody denies that. We can’t dismiss that. You need a healthy Joel Embiid to make the run that we need to make.”
The Sixers have the advantage with size, but even if Embiid dominates, Boston is still littered with tremendous wings who can put the ball in the hoop.
“They have so much firepower,” Brown noted. “They really can score.”
Whether it’s Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, or Marcus Smart, Boston’s scoring depth is impressive. Playing without Simmons is a big blow to the Sixers defense.
Rookie Matisse Thybulle is going to have to step up.
“Really for me, this is no different,” Thybulle said. “The stakes are a little bit higher, and I think we all feel that, but in terms of how I’m approaching it, it’s the same way I had to approach every game, because every game this far has been more trying to prove myself.”
Brown wouldn’t say if Thybulle will be inserted into the starting lineup because of his defensive ability, but it’s evident that the plan is to give the rookie tons of time to try to slow down the talented list of names above.
On top of all of that, Al Horford is facing his former team one year after leaving them for the Sixers. Heading into the 21st postseason matchup between these franchises, Boston has won 13 of the previous 20 series.
Horford hasn’t had the best of seasons with the 76ers, but when he was a Celtic, he gave Embiid and the Sixers fits.
How fitting would it be if Horford stepped his game up to give the Celtics a taste of that medicine? We’ll find out in due time.
We’ll see if the Sixers can somehow put their potential together and go on a run, or if it will be an early exit for them in 2020. The latter will be indicative of the type of up-and-down basketball this team played in the 2019-20 season.
“The goal and the standard is you win a championship, or you don’t,” Brown said. “I believe that we have — even without Ben — I believe we have a team that’s capable of doing that.”