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Boston Celtics return home to host division rival Philadelphia 76ers

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The Celtics return home from their successful Western road trip to host the improved Philadelphia 76ers.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

at
Philadelphia 76ers (21-34) at Boston Celtics (36-19)
Regular Season Game #56, Home Game #28
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
7:30 PM ET
TV: CSNNE, CSN-PHI, NBA-LP 752(DTV)/752 (Xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 97.5 The Fanatic
TD Garden
Referees: John Goble, Steve Anderson, Kevin Scott


The Celtics return home from their Western road trip to host division rival Philadelphia 76ers for the 3rd of 4 meetings this season. The Celtics and Sixers met once in the first game of the preseason with the Sixers coming out on top. They also met in the beginning of December on the Sixers home court and the Celtics escaped with a 107-106 win. They played in Boston on January 6 when the Celtics won 110-106. They will meet once more in Philadelphia on 3/19.

Both teams have won their last 3 games and are looking for their fourth straight win. The Celtics are 9-1 over their last 10 games while the Sixers are 4-6 over their last 10. The Celtics are 19-8 at home while the Sixers are 8-18 on the road. The Celtics are playing in the first of back to back games and will travel to Chicago after the game for a game against the Bulls on Thursday. They will then get a much needed break for All Star Weekend.

The Celtics will be without Jaylen Brown, who is out with a hip injury, and Avery Bradley, who is still rehabbing his injured Achilles. The Sixers' injury report is a bit foggy. Their star rookie, Joel Embiid is reported to have a meniscus tear in his knee and has not been playing for the Sixers but was seen dancing on stage at a concert while out with the injury. He is listed as a game time decision.

Jahlil Okafor did not play in the Sixers last two games but was seen at Logan Airport on Tuesday. He is listed as a game time decision but Brett Brown has said that he will come off the bench and play against the Celtics.. Jerryd Bayless (wrist) and Ben Simmons (foot) are both listed as out.


Probable Starters

PG Isaiah Thomas....... SG: Marcus Smart

C: Amir Johnson

SF: Jae Crowder .............. PF: Al Horford

Celtics Reserves
Gerald Green
Terry Rozier
James Young
Jonas Jerebko
Tyler Zeller
Marcus Smart
Kelly Olynyk
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey

Injuries

Jaylen Brown (hip) out
Avery Bradley (Achilles) out

Head Coach
Brad Stevens



Probable Starters

PG: TJ McConnell ................ SG: Gerald Henderson

C: Nerlens Noel

SF: Robert Covington .............. PF: Ersan Ilyasova

Sixers Reserves
Dario Saric
Timothe Luwawu Cabarret
Richaun Holmes
Sergio Rodriguez
Nik Stauskas
Chasson Randle

Injuries
Jahlil Okafor (trade rumors) probable
Joel Embiid (knee) game time decision
Ben Simmons (foot) out
Jerryd Bayless (wrist) out

Coach
Brett Brown

Key Matchups
vs
Al Horford vs Ersan Ilyasova
Ilyasova has had big games against the Celtics in both of their previous meetings. He scored 19 points in the first game and 20 points in the second game. He is averaging 14.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and is shooting 35.8% from beyond the arc. Horford has to figure a way to slow him down.

vs
Isaiah Thomas vs TJ McConnell
McConnell will have the job of trying to slow down Isaiah Thomas. McConnell is averaging 6.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.4 steals. He came up big in the game in January with 17 assists and so Isaiah will need to slow McConnell down as well.

Honorable Mention

Kelly Olynyk vs Dario Saric
In the first meeting between these two teams Saric had 21 points and 12 rebounds in a break out game for him. He is averaging 10.7 points, 5.8 rebunds and 1.8 assists. He has been playing very well for the Sixers recently. The Celtics need to keep him from having another big game against them.

Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtic struggled with their defense early on and seem to be getting their defensive swagger back recently. The Celtics have been scoring a lot of points, but they can't let down their guard on defense, however. They need to keep their priority on playing tough team defense. Defense wins games.

Be Aggressive
- The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team and go after all the loose balls, and aggressively crash the boards and go after rebounds. As said above, they must 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.

Rebound - Rebounding has been a weakness for this team this season. They must put out the extra effort to crash the boards and win the rebounding battle. The Sixers average 12.7 2nd chance points per game and the Celtics need to grab rebounds to keep them from scoring on put backs and second chance baskets.

X-Factors
Focus - The Celtics lost one game to the Sixers in the preseason and they just squeaked by them by one point in their first meeting and by 4 points in their second meeting. The Celtics can't come into the game expecting a win because of the Sixers record as the Sixers have been playing well and with confidence recently. The first game after a road trip is usually a tough one to win and so the Celtics have to come in focused and stay focused from start to finish.

Bench Play - The Sixers bench is averaging 40.1 points per game, which is 4th in the league. The Celtics will need their bench to come up big for them not just to counter the Sixers bench play, but since they play again on Thursday and it would be good for the starters to be able to get some rest.

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.