The Celtics host the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2nd of 4 meetings between the two teams this season. They met in Boston on the first night of the season, October 18, when the Celtics won 126-117. They will meet in Philadelphia on February 25 and again on April 4. The Celtics are 265-195 all time overall and they are 153-56 all time in Boston. They tied the series 2-2 last season with each team winning 1 at home and 1 on the road.
The Celtics are still 1st in the East, but their lead over #2 Milwaukee has dwindled to just 1 game. The Celtics also have a 1 game lead over Denver for the best record in the league. The Celtics are 20=7 at home and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 22-11 against Eastern Conference opponents and 7-1 against Atlantic Division rivals. They are looking for their 2nd straight win.
The 76ers are 3rd in the East, 3 games behind first place Boston and r games behind 2nd place Milwaukee. They are 2 games ahead of 4th place Cleveland and 6.5 games ahead of 7th place New York and the play in seeds. They are 14-10 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 19-12 against Eastern Conference opponents and 5-4 against the Atlantic Division. They lost their last game.
The Celtics are playing in the 1st game of a 3 game home stand that will also include Charlotte and Memphis. They will play 1 game on the road at Milwaukee before finishing out at home against Detroit before the All Star break. The 76ers are playing in the 3rd game of a 3 game road trip. They will play at home vs the Knicks before beginning a 5 game home stand.
Jaylen Brown (illness) and Luke Kornet (ankle) are both expected to be available for this game. Marcus Smart (ankle) and Danilo Gallinari (knee) are both listed as out. Al Horford was a late addition to the injury list as questionable with knee swelling. Robert Williams is also questionable due to a sprained ankle. Both will be a game time decision.
For the 76ers, Joel Embiid (foot) is listed as questionable. He has been listed as questionable for the past 6 games but has played in all of them and so is likely to play in this one also. If he can’t play, Montrezl Harrell will likely get a spot start in his place.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Marcus Smart (ankle) out
Robert Williams III (ankle) questionable
Al Horford (knee) questionable
Jaylen Brown (illness) available
Luke Kornet (ankle) available
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable 76ers Starters
Danuel House, Jr
2 Way Players
Joel Embiid (foot) questionable
Robert Williams III vs Joel Embiid
This is the key matchup for this game. Embiid is averaging 33.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. He is shooting 53.1% from the field and 35.9% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics, he put up 26 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 block. The Celtics need to contain Embiid as much as possible. He scores both inside and on the perimeter and so the Celtics need to stay with him at all times.
Derrick White vs James Harden
Harden is averaging 21.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 10.9 assists per game. He is shooting 44.7% from the field and 38.8% from beyond the arc. In the first game, he finished with 35 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. He shot 64.3% from the field and 55.6% from beyond the arc. It goes without saying that the Celtics will need to defend him better in this game.
Malcolm Brogdon vs Tyrese Maxey
Maxey has started 22 games for the Sixers this season but has been coming off the bench for them recently. He is averaging 20.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. He is shooting 45.4% from the field and 39.2% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics he finished with 21 points, 1 rebound and 2 assists. He shot 50% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. He gives the Sixers energy and an offensive force off the bench.
Keys to the Game
Defense – Defense will always be key to winning every game. The Celtics are 4th in the league with a 110.5 defensive rating while the Sixers are 6th with a defensive rating of 111.5. The Sixers are 14th in the league with 114.6 points per game. The Celtics have to come into this game with the mindset that they need to play tough defense. The Celtics have shown signs of playing the kind of defense that had them at the top of the league last season but they haven’t been consistent and so at times allow teams to score way too easily. They have to get back to making defense their priority for every possession of every game.
Rebound – Rebounding is second to defense as a key to winning. The Celtics are 7th with 45 rebounds per game while the Sixers are 28th with 40.7 rebounds per game. It takes effort to get rebounds and the Celtics must go all out in their effort to beat the Sixers to rebounds. The Celtics need to keep the Sixers from getting second chance points around the basket and they need to give themselves extra possessions by rebounding on the offensive end. If the Celtics want to win this one, it is crucial that they go all out to crash the boards.
Take Care of the Ball – The 76ers are 4th in the league with 18.9 points off turnovers per game. The Celtics are 6th in the league, committing only 13.5 turnovers per game but at times they have periods when they commit turnover after turnover. They need to focus on making good passes and on not dribbling into a crowd. It’s hard to win a game when you give the opponent 20+ extra possessions by turning the ball over. If they get sloppy, the 76ers will certainly make them pay.
Effort and Focus – The Celtics need to stay focused on playing the game the right way and not on complaining about the refs’ calls that they disagree with. They also have to play with effort. The team that plays harder and is more aggressive is usually the team that gets more calls and that comes out on top. The Celtics can’t let the Sixers play harder than them. They have to give more effort and keep their focus on playing hard and on playing the right way.
Coaching – Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who is in his third year as the Sixers coach, is one of the top 15 coaches in NBA history. Joe Mazzulla is in his first season as a head coach, having been given the job just a couple weeks before the season. The Celtics came out on top in the first game but Doc is going to want to get even in this game.
Rivalry – The Celtics and 76ers are definitely a rivalry. The Sixers, having lost the last game between them will want play extra hard in this game to try to get even in this game. I’m sure they remember the confetti game and the fact that the Celtics have eliminated them the last 5 times they have met in the playoffs. I have no doubt that the 76ers will play their hardest against the Celtics and the Celtics have to match that effort and play even harder themselves.
Officiating – Officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game differently. Some call it tight and call every bit of contact while others allow more physical play. Some favor the home team while others call both sides evenly. The Celtics have to adjust to the way the refs are calling the game and not allow no calls and bad calls to affect their focus on playing the game. They especially need to keep their poise and not complain to the refs on every call.