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Sixers vs Celtics Playoff history: Head-to-head records & iconic matchups

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The Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics are two of the proudest franchises in the NBA. The Celtics may be the more successful organization in terms of championships, but the Sixers have their own share of unforgettable experiences in the league.

Speaking of collective success, both of these teams have been fixtures in the playoffs for much of their tenure in the NBA. The Sixers have made it to the postseason 36 times, winning two titles during their current 57-year stay in the league. The Celtics are obviously the more successful team, as they’ve been to the playoffs 59 times, winning 16 titles in 74 years.

What makes it even more interesting is that these teams are also playing in the same division. The Sixers and Celtics are both in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. They’ve crossed paths countless times in the regular season, as teams within the same division typically have more games against each other.

Having said that, these proud organizations have also had memorable matchups in the postseason. There has always been a rivalry between Celtics and 76ers, and this is a ripple effect of their many playoff duels in the past.

For Philly and Boston fans out there, it’s time to settle the score. Who has the current upper hand in the head-to-head record in the Sixers vs Celtics playoff history?


Sixers vs Celtics Playoffs history

Did you know that the Sixers and the Celtics have the most series matchups in NBA playoffs history? You read that right — these teams have faced each other in a total of 21 playoff series. The Celtics have the upper hand in this matchup, as they won 14 of the 21 playoff series they had against the Sixers.

To break it down even more, the Sixers and the Celtics have faced each other 109 times in the playoffs. Of those 109 games, the Celtics garnered 62 wins, while the Sixers won 47 contests. These are a lot of games, so there’s no denying the rivalry that is the Celtics vs 76ers in the postseason.

Who won the first Sixers-Celtics Playoff matchup?

The first Sixers-Celtics playoff matchup happened way back on March 19, 1953, when the Sixers were still going by the team name of Syracuse Nationals. The Nationals and the Celtics faced off in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, with the winner of the best-of-three series advancing to the next round. Behind the exploits of Bob Cousy, who scored 50 points on 30-of-32 free throws in Game 2, the Celtics swept the Nationals in two games.

This was the start of the Celtics-Nationals rivalry during the 50s era. From 1953 to 1961, Cousy and the Celtics would face Dolph Schayes and the Nationals in seven playoff series. Of those seven playoff matchups, the Celtics emerged victorious in four series.

The Cousy-Schayes matchup would set up the stage for bigger names in the Sixers vs Celtics playoffs history.


Battle of the towering greats

During the 1964 NBA Finals, the Bill Russell-led Celtics took on the Wilt Chamberlain-led San Francisco Warriors. It was quite a leap for the Warriors at that time, as they had only accumulated a paltry 31-49 record the season prior. However, the Warriors’ inspired run didn’t get them the ultimate victory, as the Celtics took them down, 4-1, to win the title.

Little did people know that the Russell-Chamberlain individual rivalry would forge on after that 1964 Finals matchup. The Warriors had financial issues the following season, forcing them to move Chamberlain to the Sixers. Chamberlain immediately made his impact felt in Philly, leading the team in scoring with 30.1 points while hauling down 22.3 rebounds. The Sixers would meet the Celtics in the playoffs that year, and the latter won in seven games, behind the famous John Havlicek steal.

The Sixers and the Celtics would face each other in the playoffs for the next four years, spicing up the duel between Chamberlain and Russell. It was only during the 1966-67 season that Chamberlain finally broke through the Celtics barrier. In the 1967 Eastern Division Finals, the Sixers convincingly defeated the Celtics in five games, ending the latter’s tremendous run of eight straight NBA championships.

A showcase of legendary wings

The Russell-Chamberlain rivalry was a beautiful thing to watch, but another individual duel brewed in the 80s. In a classic addition to the Sixers vs Celtics playoffs history, Julius Erving and Larry Bird went head-to-head in big games against each other.

Known as two of the greatest small forwards in NBA history, Erving and Bird were the face of their respective franchises during their prime. They had contrasting play styles; Erving played more high up in the air, while Bird was famous for his long-range shooting and playmaking skills. They were the best players in the 80s, and fans always got a treat when they faced each other.

From 1980 to 1985, the two talented wings dueled in four Eastern Conference Finals matchups. The Sixers defeated the Celtics during the first playoff matchup of the Bird-Erving rivalry in 1980. The Celtics then took their revenge the following year, beating the Sixers and then winning the 1981 NBA championship against the Houston Rockets.

The Sixers-Celtics rivalry will live on

Two of the most historic organizations in the NBA, the Sixers-Celtics rivalry will be a thing forever.

Both of them are in big markets, so expect these two teams to continue exhausting their resources to compete year in and year out.

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