Prior to this season, the Boston Celtics had the perfect answer for Joel Embiid in Al Horford.
When Horford defected in the eyes of Celtics fans and signed with Philadelphia last offseason, he took away Boston's single biggest threat to Embiid scoring 40 on them every night.
No one guarded Embiid more than Horford last season, and Big Al was terrific in slowing the All-Star centre down.
In 109.3 partial possessions, Horford held Embiid to just 37.8 percent shooting from the field and 18.2 percent from three. He also forced Embiid to an average of 1.8 turnovers while guarding him through four games.
SERIES PREVIEW: Can Embiid lead Sixers past C's?
The 76ers went 1-3 in the season series against the Celtics last year, leading Embiid to say there was no rivalry between the two Eastern Conference contenders.
This season was much different, however. With Horford now playing alongside Embiid, the Celtics went to defence by committee to try and slow down the big man.
The results weren't as bad as they might seem.
Despite a 38-point performance in early December from Embiid, Boston kept the big man in check for the most part. In three games against the Celtics this season, Embiid averaged 21.3 points while shooting 39.1 percent from the field.
Enes Kanter (yes, Enes Kanter) and Daniel Theis did the majority of the heavy lifting when guarding Embiid through the season. Kanter checked Embiid for almost 50 partial possessions and held him to just 36.8 percent from the field while Theis held him to 38.5 percent from the field on 34.5 possessions .
Jayson Tatum, albeit on a much smaller sample size had some success defending the 76ers All-Star centre as well.
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Taking Horford away from their rivals gave Philly the confidence that Joel Embiid would be able to dominate the Celtics in a way he never had before.
The 76ers were able to win the season series 3-1 but Embiid didn't have the dominant performance over the three games that he played in as one might have thought he would.
Without Ben Simmons in the lineup, Embiid will have to perform at a high level to get the 76ers past Boston but with the way the Celtics have defended Embiid this season, that's far from a given.
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