Merry Christmas to all from the CelticsBlog family! This year, the Celtics gave us the gift of being able to sneak away from family responsibilities to go to the other room to watch the Celtics game. It will be a Christmas Day excuse we will all be thankful for.
Tonight, the Philadelphia 76ers are coming into town as part of the huge NBA slate the league puts together for Christmas Day. It is a lineup of some of the top match-ups throughout the day, and the Celtics and Sixers get the honor of playing in the 5:30 slot. It will be one of the best signature contests of the day with a playoff type feel attached to this one.
The Celtics are looking to make this Christmas even better with a statement win at home against the 76ers. Some have wanted to make this a rivalry between these two teams as they matched up against each other last year in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but if you look at the records between the two over the last few years, it really would not be called a rivalry at all. Since the beginning of the 2016-2017 season, Boston’s record against Philadelphia is 11-3 including the playoffs. While everyone is pushing the rivalry narrative, we all need to keep in mind the past three seasons between the two teams.
As for this season, the two teams faced each other in the season opener where the Celtics took down the Sixers 105-87 in front of another packed TD Garden crowd. However, tonight Boston will be without their secret weapon who was instrumental in their win back in October. That secret weapon is Aron Baynes. Unfortunately, he will still be out of action as he is nursing a hand injury suffered a few games back. Baynes is the kryptonite of Sixers center Joel Embiid. Baynes knows how to get physical with Embiid and knock him off his game. Without him on the floor tonight, look for Embiid to have himself a big game.
Another change from the season opener is that Philadelphia’s addition of Jimmy Butler. This will be just another impact player the Celtics will have to scheme around in this one. Butler was the huge trade acquisition the Sixers picked up in exchange for Dario Saric and Robert Covington. In his 17 games with Philly, Butler has averaged 18.5 points per game shooting 48.1% from the field and 39.6% from three. He seems to be adjusting to his role well without having to carry the full load for this team.
As for the Celtics, they are once again excited to have almost everyone back from injury. We all saw this Sunday night in their win against the Hornets as their offense looked rejuvenated compared to the struggles of the three games earlier. Tonight, they are looking to win an important game with most of the NBA watching. Depending on seeding in the Eastern Conference, we could see this match up in another playoff series down the road.
As mentioned, the Celtics injury report only includes Aron Baynes. For Philly, Wilson Chandler will be a question mark who is normally slotted into their starting lineup. Other than that, Markelle Fultz, Zharie Smith, and Justin Patton will be sidelined for this contest. Mike Muscala can be a weak point of the lineup to attack if he indeed gets the start. Look for Brad to key in on him to make an impact.
More than anything else, the Celtics just need this win because it is on a huge national stage. It really is just another December regular season game, but the stakes are intensified under the Christmas Day lights. With a win, they can once again let the 76ers know that there isn’t a rivalry between these two teams until they start competing on a more consistent basis.
PG – Kyrie Irving – Ben Simmons
SG – Marcus Smart – JJ Redick
SF – Jayson Tatum – Jimmy Butler
PF – Marcus Morris Sr. – Mike Muscala/ Wilson Chandler
C – Al Horford – Joel Embiid
Boston- Aron Baynes (Hand)
Philadelphia- Wilson Chandler (Quad); Markelle Fultz (Shoulder); Zhaire Smith (Foot); Justin Patton (Foot)
How To Watch
Time – 5:30 EST
TV – ABC/ NBC Sports Boston