East wide open in 2020? James Ennis says 76ers will 'walk' to NBA Finals

East wide open in 2020? James Ennis says 76ers will 'walk' to NBA Finals

The Philadelphia 76ers should be the favorite to win the Eastern Conference and play in the 2020 NBA Finals, and one of their players is pretty confident that's going to happen.

Sixers guard James Ennis III, who recently re-signed with Philly, told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer that his team will "walk" to the NBA Finals next season.

That's a bold statement from Ennis.

The 76ers figure to be a tough out next season after re-signing Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, Ennis and acquiring Al Horford from the rival Boston Celtics in free agency. And let's not forget the 76ers' two-best players, center Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons, should also continue to improve next season and beyond.

The East, as Ennis notes, really is wide open, however.

The Milwaukee Bucks, led by reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, will be a force again. The Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdon via trade this summer, but they are expected to return much of the same team that finished with the East's best record during the 2019-20 regular season. The Boston Celtics also will be a tough out, and no team understands that better than Philly. The C's lost Horford and Kyrie Irving in free agency, but they signed Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter, and also should see improvement from young wings Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The Indiana Pacers made a few shrewd offseason moves, too, and likely will again be a top-four team in the conference.

There are question marks surrounding the 76ers themselves. Embiid hasn't been able to stay healthy and/or in shape for a lengthy playoff run. Simmons still can't shoot from the outside and Horford is 33 years old and has battled through injuries the last two seasons. Philly's bench still doesn't have enough talent or depth, and the roster as a whole needs more 3-point shooting.

Being the favorite on paper also doesn't mean much. Many fans and experts believed the Celtics would march to the NBA Finals last season with LeBron James out of the conference. Boston instead fought through a massively disappointing season and exited in the conference semifinals. 

Ennis and the 76ers have a long way to go before they reach the conference finals for the first time since 2001, but in fairness, they do have plenty of reasons to be confident in their chances next season.

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Celtics vs. Wizards live stream: Watch 2020 NBA seeding game online

Celtics vs. Wizards live stream: Watch 2020 NBA seeding game online

The Boston Celtics will conclude their NBA seeding game schedule Thursday with an afternoon matchup against the Washington Wizards.

The C's have won four consecutive games and five of their second seeding contests overall, and the team's performance in these matchups has been pretty encouraging. The team's best players, including Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Kemba Walker all have played well. Several of the team's younger players also have shown they deserve a look come playoff time, including second-year center Robert Williams.

Williams could get extended playing time versus the Wizards. He scored 10 points in just 14 minutes during Tuesday's win over the Memphis Grizzlies, and the 2018 first-round pick is averaging 13.5 points in the four seeding games he's played in. 

There are no playoff implications in Boston's last seeding game. The C's already locked up the No. 3 seed and will play the Philadelphia 76ers in Round 1. That said, this game against the Wizards is an important one for the C's to ensure they enter the playoffs firing on all cylinders.

NBC Sports Boston has you covered with complete coverage of Celtics vs. Wizards, starting at 11 a.m. ET with "Celtics Pregame Live". Tip-off is scheduled for noon on NBC Sports Boston, with complete postgame analysis after the final buzzer on "Celtics Postgame Live."



BEFORE THE GAME: At 11 a.m., Celtics Pregame Live presented by TD Bank gets you ready for the game with reports from Kyle Draper, Brian Scalabrine, Kendrick Perkins, Abby Chin, Chris Forsberg and A. Sherrod Blakely. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AT HALFTIME: Tune in to watch a breakdown of the first two quarters on Celtics Halftime Live. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AFTER THE GAME: As soon as the game ends, tune to Celtics Postgame Live presented by New England Ford for analysis, commentary and player reaction. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream

Questions on our livestream? Get all your questions answered here on our Streaming FAQ.



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2020 NBA Playoffs: Celtics will play rival 76ers in first round

2020 NBA Playoffs: Celtics will play rival 76ers in first round

A new chapter in one of basketball's best rivalries will be written in the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs.

The Boston Celtics will take on the Philadelphia 76ers in Round 1. It will be the first playoff series between these teams since Boston beat Philly in a five-game Eastern Conference semifinals in 2018.

The matchup became official Wednesday night when the Indiana Pacers beat the Houston Rockets, which locked the Sixers into the No. 6 seed. The Celtics secured the No. 3 seed earlier this week. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Wizards, which begins Thursday at 11 a.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at noon. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Boston will play the Washington Wizards on Thursday afternoon in its final seeding game. Philly has two more seeding games remaining -- Wednesday night versus the Toronto Raptors and Friday night against the Rockets.

The Sixers might not be at full strength against the Celtics in Round 1. All-Star point guard Ben Simmons recently left the NBA bubble to have surgery on his knee, and he's reportedly expected to miss the rest of the season. Philadelphia's All-Star center, Joel Embiid, injured his left ankle against the Portland Trail Blazers last Sunday and didn't play Tuesday, but he reportedly will return to the lineup Wednesday night.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Banner 18 in the bubble? Celtics' title chances getting stronger as postseason nears | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Here are the updated seeds for the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Miami Heat and Pacers still haven't locked in their exact seeds, but they will be the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup in Round 1. Miami needs one win in its final two seeding games to clinch the No. 4 seed.

1. Milwaukee Bucks
2. Toronto Raptors
3. Boston Celtics
4. Miami Heat
5. Indiana Pacers
6. Philadelphia 76ers
7. Brooklyn Nets
8. Orlando Magic