Boston Celtics (1-0) at Philadelphia 76ers (0-1)
The Celtics face their longtime division rival, the Philadelphia 76ers for their second preseason test. The Celtics looked good in their first game against the Charlotte Hornets who brought back most of their starters from last year and added Dwight Howard.
The Sixers will present a different challenge with their young core of talented young players. Their “process” is supposedly finished after tanking for what seems like forever. They have a team filled with high lottery picks including the last two #1 picks. They are ready to try to actually win games for a change.
In their first game against the Hornets, the Celtics’ starters played very well together. Marcus Morris was added to the team after the end of his trial on Tuesday and may eventually become the starting four, but Horford and Baynes played very well together, and with limited time with the team for Morris, I’m going to guess that Brad starts the same group for this game. Morris is expected to play in this game but more than likely will come off the bench.
I'm going to guess that the Sixers will start the same group that they did against the Grizzlies, but in the preseason, there is always a chance that either team could experiment with different starters, especially with the Sixers losing their opener by 21 points. The same could be true for the Celtics. Even though the starters played well together in their first game, Brad may want to experiment with other lineups bo see if another one might be even better.
The Celtics have no one on the injured list as of now. Marcus Morris joined the team on Thursday and originally planned to play in this game. But Brad Stevens has decided to let him get his legs under him before throwing him into the mix. He is expected to make his debut with the Celtics on Monday, against these same Sixers. The Celtics have also waived Devin Williams.
For the Sixers, Embiid has not been cleared to play after his March 24 surgery for a torn meniscus. Cabarrot is trying to rehab from patellar tendinitis and is also out. Dario Saric has been resting after playing in Eurobasket and is also expected to miss this game. Amir Johnson injured his ankle in Tuesday's practice and was limited in Thursday’s practice. He is probable for this game. Robert Covington was limited in practice on Thursday and is listed as day to day. Markelle Fultz is dealing with right shoulder soreness but is expected to play in this game.
Interesting Fact: Jonathan Sterling, who is officiating this game is new to the NBA and entering his first season as an NBA referee. He is married to Lauren Holtcamp, who is entering her 3rd season as an NBA referee.
Possible Celtics Starters
Probable Sixers Starters
James Blackmon, Jr
James Michael McAdoo
Markelle Fultz (shoulder) probable
Amir Johnson (ankle) probable
Robert Covington (knee) probable
Joel Embiid (knee) out
Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot (knee) out
Dario Saric (rest) out
Kyrie will go from guarding another top point guard in Kemba Walker to covering the top pick in this year’s draft. Fultz struggled in his first game and will be looking to redeem himself in this one.
Although Ben Simmons brings the ball up and plays the point forward, Kyrie will be matched up with Fultz for the most part. Fultz shot just 2-13 for 4 points with 3 assists in his first game. He also appeared fatigued when he became the primary ball handler in the second half. He will look to play better in this one.
Al Horford will be tasked with covering the Sixers’ rookie star Ben Simmons. Simmons brings the ball up and runs the offense in spite of being 6’10”. It will be important for Al to disrupt his passes and force him to take outside shots, which isn’t his strong point.
- The Sixers use Simmons as their point forward and so he will be looking to find the open man and will need to handle the ball much of the time. Al’s defense will be key to disrupting the Sixers’ offense.
Jayson Tatum vs Markelle Fultz
These two players won't be matched up against each other in the game for the most part, but they are always going to be compared. When Danny Ainge traded the #1 pick for the #3 pick and passed on Fultz, who was the consensus top pick, in order to take Tatum, it assured the fact that these two players will be scrutinized and compared for the rest of their careers.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics' defense was better than expected in their first game against the Hornets. They have the potential to be a very good defensive team and they need to work hard to live up to that potential. Defense wins games, even in the preseason.
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. The Celtics need to work to get back to being the tough and aggressive team they were last season.
Move the Ball - The Celtics had beautiful ball movement in their first game and they need to work at doing the same in this game. Hero ball rarely wins games and so they have to consistently move the ball and play together. If they build those habits in the preseason, it will make them that much tougher to beat when the games count.
Focus on the Road - The Celtics are a young team and at times young players struggle to stay focused when playing on the road. This is their first road game and so they need to focus on playing Celtics basketball and not on the distractions of playing on the road and in front of a hostile crowd.
It's Preseason - Winning isn't always the top priority in preseason games. Coaches are going to experiment with lineups and try to sit their stars as much as possible to avoid injury before the season. So, we need to enjoy watching them play and be glad that real basketball is almost back.