Boston Celtics (44-25) at Philadelphia 76ers (25-43)
Regular Season Game #70, Road Game #38
Sunday, March 19, 2017
1:00 PM ET
TV: CSNNE, CSN-PHI, NBA-LP 752(DTV)/754(Xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 97.5 The Fanatic
Wells Fargo Center
Referees: Mike Callahan, Brent Barnaky, Tre Maddox
The Celtics continue their two game road trip with a visit to the division rival Philadelphia 76ers for the 4th and final game this season. The Celtics and Sixers met once in the first game of the preseason with the Sixers coming out on top in that one. Since that preseason game, the Celtics are 3-0 in the regular season against the Sixers.
These two teams met in the beginning of December on the Sixers home court and the Celtics escaped with a 107-106 win. Dario Saric led the Sixers with 20 points and 12 rebounds. The Celtics were healthy but the Sixers were missing Simmons, Embiid, and Bayless. They played in Boston on January 6 when the Celtics won 110-106. The Celtics were missing Zeller, Young and Mickey. They also met in February when the Celtics came away with a 116-108 win. The Celtics were without Bradley and Brown. The Sixers were missing Okafor, Bayless and Simmons.
Despite their record, and multiple injuries, the Sixers have played the Celtics tough in each game this season. The Celtics can't take them for granted and make the mistake of playing their record instead of the scrappy team that they are. They have made several changes in personnel since they last played. Embiid, who has played well for them is out for the rest of the season. Ersan Ilyasova, who always gave the Celtics problems is now on the Hawks. Nerlens Noel is now in Dallas with Justin Anderson taking his place in Philly.
Both teams are playing in the first of back to back games. The Sixers will travel to Orlando for a Monday game while the Celtics head home to host the Washington Wizards. The Celtics are looking for their 4th straight win while the Sixers are looking to win their second straight. The Celtics are 21-16 on the road while the Sixers are 16-19 at home. The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games while the Sixers are 3-7 in their last 10.
Isaiah Thomas will miss his second straight game for the Celtics with a bone bruise on his knee that he suffered in the game against the Timberwolves. For the Sixers, they are without Jerryd Bayless (wrist), Joel Embiid (knee), Ben Simmons (foot), and Tiago Splitter (calf).
The Celtics are 1.5 games behind the Cavs who lost to the Clippers
The Celtics are now 2 ahead of the 3rd place Wizards who lost to the Hornets on Saturday.
The Celtics are 4 ahead of the idle 4th place Raptors.
The Celtics are 7 ahead of the 5th place Hawks who lost to the Blazers.
Games to Watch
Pacers at Raptors (Sunday)
Cavs at Lakers (Sunday)
PG Marcus Smart....... SG: Avery Bradley
C: Al Horford
SF: Jae Crowder .............. PF: Amir Johnson
Isaiah Thomas (knee) out
PG: TJ McConnell................. SG: Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
C: Jahlil Okafor
SF: Robert Covington .............. PF: Dario Saric
Jerryd Bayless (wrist) game time decision
Ben Simmons (foot) out
Joel Embiid (knee) out
Tiago Splitter (calf) out
Al Horford vs Jahlil Okafor
With Noel gone to Dallas and Embiid injured, Okafor has become the starting center for the Sixers. He sat out the last game between these two teams because they were close to trading him. But he's the last man standing it would seem. He is averaging 12.1 points 5.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. While Okafor is good, he is nowhere near Embiid's level, especially on the defensive end. Horford should be able to get the best of this matchup.
Jae Crowder vs Robert Covington
Covington is averaging 12.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. Covington is coming off an 18 point game against the Mavericks and he is capable of putting up a big game if not defended well.
Amir Johnson vs Dario Saric
Saric is coming on strong with increased opportunities with the Sixers and is now a favorite for rookie of the year. He is averaging 12.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. In the last meeting between these teams, Saric had 20 points and 11 rebounds. In their first meeting, he had 20 points and 12 rebounds. It will be key to defend Saric well or he will have another big game.
The Celtics will need to get some production from their bench. The Sixers have some players on their bench who have been coming up big for them. In the 11 games since the All Star break, Richaun Holmes is averaging 12.6 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal and 1.5 blocks on 62% shooting from the field and 44% from beyond the arc. Justin Anderson is playing well for them and has matched his career high of 19 points 3 times since the trade. Nik Stauskas and Gerald Henderson are both capable of having big games as well.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtic have been playing well on the defensive end of the floor and they have to continue to make defense a priority. Defense wins games and the Celtics must continue 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. The Sixers get their wins by playing hard and the Celtics have to match their effort and play even harder.
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 at times, their assist levels have dropped and they play more one on one and take quick shots. Hero ball rarely wins games. Especially with Isaiah out, they have to make an effort to keep the ball moving.
Focus - The Celtics need to make their shots. It is a mystery how a team can shoot 50+% in one game and then be unable to hit a shot in the next game. They shot just 40% against the Nets. That has to be a lack of focus and confidence. They need to keep their focus and not play down to the Sixers.
Focus on the Road - The Celtics tend to lose focus when playing lottery teams. They need to focus on facing the Sixers just as much as they do facing the Warriors because often the younger teams are trying harder to prove themselves in the regular season. The Celtics have to focus on playing Celtics basketball and not on the distractions of playing on the road and the Sixers record.
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. The Celtics have to adjust to the way the officials call the game and not let it shake their focus.