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Celtics hoping a game vs the Sixers will cure what ails them

Celtics are looking to break out of 4-game slump as they visit the Philadelphia 76ers.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics (39-30) at Philadelphia 76ers (9-60)
Regular Season Game #70, Road Game #35
Sunday, March 20, 2016
6:00 PM ET
TV: CSNNE, CSN-PHI, NBA-LP 753(DTV)/756 (Xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 97.5 The Fanatic
Wells Fargo Center

Referees: Marc Davis, Derrick Collins, JT Orr

The reeling Celtics may have the prescription for what ails them as they pay a visit to the league-worst Philadelphia 76ers. Like the Celtics, the Sixers have lost 4 straight, but they have also lost 17 of their last 18 games. Their only two wins since Jan. 27 have come against Brooklyn, the second-worst team in the East. The Celtics have dropped to 16-18 on the road, while the Sixers are just 6-29 at home.

The Sixers have struggled even more than usual since losing their top rookie, Jahlil Okafor, who was averaging 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. For the Celtics, when Jae Crowder went down, the Celtics had had won 17 of 22 and were 3rd in the East, just 4.5 games out of 2nd. Since that, the Celtics have dropped 4 straight and are hoping to avoid their longest losing streak all season with a win in this game.

Evan Turner is returning to Philly to play the team that drafted him second overall in the 2010 draft. He played for the Sixers from 2010 to 2014 and was much maligned there for never living up to the expectations they had for a No. 2 pick. He was soundly booed in his past games there. He was moved into the starting lineup against the Raptors and will probably start at the three again in this game. He had 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists against the Sixers in his last game here in January.

The Sixers have Robert Covington (concussion), Joel Embiid (foot), Richaun Holmes (Achilles), and Jahlil Okafor (knee) out. The Celtics are missing their heart and soul, Jae Crowder, for the fourth straight game with a high ankle sprain. Jonas Jerebko will miss his 3rd straight game with an ankle/Achilles injury. Kelly Olynyk will be playing his 3rd game back and is still working his way back to game shape.

The Celtics' 4-game losing streak has dropped them from 3rd down into 5th place in the East. After losses by Indiana and Charlotte and wins by Atlanta and Miami on Saturday night, the Celtics are now 1.5 games behind Atlanta (3), and 1 game behind Miami (4). They are tied with Charlotte who are in 6th because the Celtics own the tie breaker. They are 3 games ahead of Indiana, who are 7th.

Probable Starters

PG Isaiah Thomas....... SG: Avery Bradley

C: Jared Sullinger

SF: Evan Turner .............. PF: Amir Johnson

Celtics Reserves

RJ Hunter
Tyler Zeller
Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier
James Young

Coty Clarke
Kelly Olynyk
Marcus Smart

Head Coach

Brad Stevens

Jae Crowder (ankle) out
Jonas Jerebko (ankle/Achilles) out

Probable Starters

PG: Ish Smith................. SG: Isaiah Canaan

C: Nerlens Noel

SF: Hollis Thompson.............. PF: Jerami Grant

Sixers Reserves
Elton Brand
TJ McConnell
Sonny Weems
Nik Stauskas
Carl Landry
Kendall Marshall

Head Coach
Brett Brown

Joel Embiid (foot) out
Robert Covington (concussion) out
Richuan Holmes (Achilles) out
Jahlil Okafor (knee) out

Key Matchups
Jared Sullinger vs Nerlens Noel
The Sixers are missing their young talented center, but Nerlens Noel is playing center now and is also dangerous. Noel led all rookies in rebounding (8.1), steals (1.77) and blocks (1.89) last season. The only other rookie to average more than 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals was David Robinson. He is averaging 11.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. He could be a tough matchup for the Celtics, and Jared will need to keep him away from the paint and the boards.

Isaiah Thomas vs Ish Smith
The Sixers have been playing much better since signing Ish Smith to play point guard. Smith is listed at 6'0" and, like Thomas, is a spark plug on the court. Smith is averaging 12.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. This should be a fun matchup to watch.

Honorable Mention
Marcus Smart vs Nik Stauskas
Stauskas has been playing very well for the Sixers off the bench as they have given him more opportunities to prove himself in recent games. He is averaging 8 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists as well as shooting 34% from beyond the arc off the bench for the Sixers. He is coming off a season-high 23 points and 3 steals against the Thunder on Friday. Assuming Smart goes back to his role off the bench, he will need to limit Stauskas' impact on the game while trying to make an impact himself for the Celtics.

Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtic have struggled with their defense recently but got back to playing good defense against the Raptors in the 3rd quarter on Friday. Defense wins games and the Celtics must get back to making defense their priority and to playing tough defense as a team.

Be Aggressive
- The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team and go after all the loose balls, and aggressively go after rebounds, and be aggressive on defense. They also have to be aggressive in taking the ball into the paint. The more aggressive team will usually get the benefit of the whistles. When they are the more aggressive team, they are tough to beat. During their 4 game losing streak, aside from Friday's 3rd quarter, the Celtics have played tentatively and have been hesitant on both ends of the court.

Move the Ball - The Celtics have shown beautiful ball movement at times, and they have been able to make the extra pass and find the open man to get the best shot. But other times, their assist levels have dropped, and they play more one on one and take quick shots. Hero ball rarely wins games. They also seem to have lost their confidence and they need to get that back and get back to playing Celtics basketball.

Run- The Celtics aren't quite as deep as they were with Jae and Jonas playing, but they still have good depth and they are young and so there is no excuse not to run on every possession. They are at their best when they are getting down court quickly and getting open shots before the defenses can set up as well as running back on defense to prevent easy baskets on the other end. Run! Run! Run!

Focus - The Celtics need to make their shots. It is a mystery how a team can shoot 58% in one game and then be unable to hit a shot in the next game. The Celtics were third in the league in scoring from Jan. 15 through March. 9 at 111.7 points per game. Over the past 4 games, they are averaging 99 points on 40.6% shooting, including 29.4% from deep. That has to be a lack of focus and confidence, not because they are missing Jae. They need to keep their focus and not play down to the Sixers.

Focus and Confidence
- The Celtics showed that they still can play Celtics basketball even without Jae and Jonas in the 3rd quarter on Friday. But other times over the past 4 games, the Celtics have looked hesitant and unable to play as a team. They have to regain their confidence and get that winning swagger back. They also have to stay focused and not overlook the Sixers because of their record. They made that mistake against both the Nets and the Lakers this season and lost to both teams.

Officiating - Officiating will always be an X-factor. Some crews call every little bit of contact that takes the flow out of the game. Some crews let them play. Some refs have an agenda against a team, a coach or a player. All of these things can alter the way a game is played and the ability of a team to play well. Isaiah spoke out against the officiating after the Raptors game, and indeed it did seem like Isaiah got manhandled quite a bit without any calls while Kyle Lowry got quite a few star calls. Hopefully this game will be called evenly and they will let them play.

Official Report
Marc Davis

Marc Davis has been an NBA official for the past 17 seasons, working 977 regular season games, 55 Playoff games, and the 2007 NBA All-Star Game. Davis has officiated four Finals games during his career. In addition to his NBA experience, Davis has three years of CBA officiating experience and three years of collegiate basketball officiating experience in the OVC and TAAC Junior Colleges. He grew up in Chicago and is still active in the Chicago area.

Davis was investigated for threatening to whoop Allen Iverson's a** when AI complained about a call in a game in 2005, but he was not suspended for it. The Celtics history with Davis goes way back also. In 2009, Davis was seen after a Celtics/Bulls game with his family all decked out in Bulls gear. It was Davis that Rajon Rondo bumped in a terribly officiated playoff game vs Atlanta and was ejected and suspended for it.

In a game three seasons ago against the Bulls, the officiating was terrible. With 12 seconds left, Pierce was trapped and fouled, including a busted lip, right in front of Davis with no call. Rondo was signalling for a time-out right in Davis' face but they called a jump ball instead of calling the foul or the time out. Even Hubie Brown was talking about how bad the calls were the entire game and Hubie doesn't usually comment on the officiating. Two seasons ago, in a game against the Kings, Davis even got to the mild-mannered Brad Stevens. Davis ignored obvious pushing and shoving by DeMarcus Cousins all night. At one point, Gerald Wallace pointed out an obvious foul by Cousins and was tossed to which Stevens pointed out that he could have thrown out Cousins all game and was tossed as well. He was decent in each of his games last season and, if anything, in a couple of the games, he gave the Celtics the benefit of the doubt. I wonder if his problem was with Rondo all along and with Rondo gone, he's feeling a kind of kinship with the Celtics. Stranger things have happened,

Davis' only games with the Celtics this season was a win in the preseason over the Nets and a 1-point win over the Knicks. Both games were well officiated. The Celtics are 2-0this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with Davis while the Sixers are 1-9 in their last 10 with Davis. This is his first game with the Sixers this season. His home W/L record this season is 37-19.

Derrick Collins

Derrick Collins has officiated 871 regular season games and 16 Playoff games in 14 NBA seasons. Prior to joining the NBA, he officiated five seasons in the CBA where he worked two Finals, and three seasons in the WNBA, working three WNBA Playoffs and Finals. He has seven years of collegiate officiating experience in various conferences (Big 12, Sun Belt, Conference USA, Southland, SEC, TAAC, OVC and SWAC), and he officiated a Southland Conference semifinal game. Collins also officiated at the high school level in Louisiana.

There is very little controversy around Collins. In the Wolves game last season, most of the calls went their way and the Wolves shot 32 free throws to just 9 for the Celtics, but Collins has been decent for the most part. In the Spurs game this season, the refs favored the Spurs a bit in the first half but were fairly even in the second half. They pretty much let both teams play for most of the game. Free throws were even at 22 for the game. The Celtics are 1-2 this season and 3-7 in their last 10 games with Collins while the Sixers are 0-1 this season and 1-9 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 27-24.

JT Orr

J.T. Orr enters his fifth NBA season having officiated 162 regular season games. Orr’s experience includes five seasons and 177 games officiated in the NBA D-League. He also has four seasons of NBA preseason experience and has worked in NBA summer camps for nine years. In addition to his professional experience, Orr officiated collegiate games for 13 years, working the NCAA tournament in 2011 and including service for the PAC 10/12, West Coast and Big West Conferences and multiple small college conferences. He also has 15 years of high school officiating experience.

The Celtics are 2-1 this season and 6-4 over their last 10 games with Orr as a ref. As with most refs, he can be good or bad. He has called a few one sided games where the Celtics can't get a call and others where the officiating is even. In a game vs Memphis this season, the refs were terrible in the 4th quarter. There were a lot of bad calls going the Grizzlies' way. Clear goal tending and foul calls were ignored while phantom fouls were called on the Celtics. They ignored a 5 step travel on Gasol right in front of Orr. The Grizzlies shot 40 free throws to 23 for the Celtics. He hasn't been particularly bad in the rest of his games with the Celtics, however. The Sixers are 0-3 this season and 2-8 in their last 10 games with Orr. His home W/L record this season is 30-18.

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