The Celtics and Sixers meet for the second time this preseason, this time in Boston. In their first meeting, the Celtics came out on top after the Sixers put up a good fight and stayed with them for much of the game. The important thing is that the Celtics showed some improvement and appear to be building chemistry on both the first and second units.
With both Holmes and Embiid out for this game, it seems that the Sixers are down to a pair of Okafors and Amir Johnson at center. I’m guessing that they will start Jahlil Okafor and bring Amir off the bench, but then again, they may want Amir in the starting lineup at center to anchor their other young starters.
Brett Brown has indicated that Markelle Fultz will play in this game but will come off the bench. Jerryd Bayless will start in his place. Nik Stauskas, Dario Saric and Jahlil Okafor should round out the the starters as Brown rests both Robert Covington and JJ Redick.
The Celtics remain mostly healthy. Marcus Morris is still working his way back into game shape and is expected to miss this game. Brad Stevens has reported that he plans to rest Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving for this game and that means that the young guns will get more playing time and the starting lineup could be any combination of players.
Celtics Probable Starters
Gordon Hayward (rest) out
Kyrie Irving (rest) out
Al Horford (rest) out
Marcus Morris (rest) out
Sixers Probable Starters
James Blackmon, Jr
James Michael McAdoo
Joel Embiid (knee) out
Richaun Holmes (wrist) out
JJ Redick (rest) out
Robert Covington (rest) out
Coach Brett Brown
Terry Rozier vs Jerryd Bayless
With both starting point guards out, it’s a guess that Rozier and Bayless will start. Fultz is expected to come off the bench and may be matched up with Marcus Smart. It will be interesting to see if Fultz can bounce back from his disappointing first game and sitting out the second with a sore shoulder.
Jason Tatum vs Ben Simmons
It will be interesting to see if the Celtics start Tatum again in this game. If so, his defense will be tested as he tries to stop Simmons, who will be initiating the offense for the most part, unless the Sixers decide to end the point forward experiment for this game, at least. Tatum needs to make Simmons shoot from outside and keep him out of the paint. Tatum also has to keep Simmons off balance as he brings the ball up and tries to initiate the 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 No. 1 pick for the No. 3 pick and passed on Fultz, who was the consensus top selection, 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. The Celtics were able to force 24 turnovers in their first preseason meeting with Philadelphia and they need to be tenacious in this game as well.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team and go after all the loose balls, attack the boards on both ends, and be assertive 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 have been aggressive so far and that has helped them to win both preaseason games. The play of the game was Marcus Smart fighting for a steal and winning. The Sixers announcers said that Marcus would chew your arm off to get the ball. The entire team needs to play that way.
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. Boston has 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. It would be nice to see the second unit develop that same ball movement.
Focus - The Celtics have to be careful not to let up because they beat the Sixers just a few days ago. The Sixers will be looking to avenge that loss and will come out strong and the Celtics need to be ready for that.
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.
Who is Playing - In the first meeting between these two teams, the Sixers were missing several key players. The Sixers expect to get Fultz, Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Saric back for this game. However, they have lost Holmes to a wrist injury and Embiid is still expected to be out. They are also planning to rest both Redick and Covington. For the Celtics, they will be resting Hayward, Irving, Horford, and Morris. Hopefully the young guys will rise to the occasion.
Marcus Smart - I list Marcus Smart as an X-Factor because his grit and scrappiness in the game are definitely catchy. Brad Stevens made it a point in Sunday’s film session to point out a few of Smart’s hustle plays from Friday win in Philadelphia. Rozier commented that Smart makes everyone around him play as hard as he does. It would be great to see several of the young guys take up that challenge and play as hard as Smart does.