The Celtics will take on the 76ers in Philadelphia for the second time in 3 days. In Friday’s game, the Celtics and Sixers kept it close up until the last minute of the game when the Sixers pulled ahead to win 117-109. The Celtics shot better in that game but put the Sixers on the line for 45 free throws.
Kemba Walker continued his come back from knee rehab with a solid first half but with limited minutes, he sat a long time and was not as effective when he came back into the game. His minutes are expected to be expanded in this game to 25-28 minutes. Robert Williams was available for Wednesday’s game but didn’t play because Daniel Theis was playing very well and Williams minutes would be very limited.
Jayson Tatum has been cleared from Covid quarantine and has been practicing back in Boston but won’t be joining the team in Philadelphia. After two weeks off without any workouts or practice, they are giving him the extra time to get some practice in and to build up his conditioning before playing in a game.
Carson Edwards is still on the injury list due to health and safety protocols and there hasn’t been an update on his status. Romeo Langford is with the team in Philadelphia and has been doing some shooting, but isn’t ready to return to play as yet. Aaron Nesmith is questionable with a sore back.
For the Sixers, Seth Curry was cleared from the health and safety protocols for Wednesday’s game, but just as the Celtics are doing with Jayson Tatum, they held him out of that game for extra conditioning. Vincent Poirier (covid) and Mike Scott (knee) are both questionable.
Tyrese Maxey has been starting at shooting guard for the Sixers in Curry’s absence. I’m not sure if Curry will go back into the starting lineup or come off the bench on his return. Also he may have a minutes limit whether he starts or comes off the bench. I’m assuming that Brad will keep the same starting 5 for this game, but that isn’t a sure thing.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Grant Williams
C: Tristan Thompson
Robert Williams III
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Jayson Tatum (conditioning) out
Carsen Edwards (covid) out
Aaron Nesmith (back) questionable
Probable 76ers Starters
PG: Ben Simmons
SG: Tyrese Maxey
SF: Danny Green
PF: Tobias Harris
C: Joel Embiid
Seth Curry (conditioning) available
Mike Scott (knee) out
Vincent Poirier (covid) out
Tristan Thompson vs Joel Embiid
Embiid is always a tough matchup and it appears that he is just getting tougher. He is averaging 25.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. In Wednesday’s game, he had 42 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block. He is shooting 53.6% from the field and 39.3% from beyond the arc. Whoever guards him must stay with him both in the paint and on the perimeter. They also have to find a way to guard him without putting him on the line where he shot 21 free throws on Friday.
Grant Williams vs Tobias Harris
Harris is averaging 19.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. Harris put up 22 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. I’m not sure if Grant will be starting here or not but whoever starts will need to stay with Harris wherever he goes on the court because he is shooting 50% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc.
Kemba Walker vs Ben Simmons
Simmons is averaging 12.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks. He is shooting 50% from the field but just 20% from beyond the arc. He isn’t putting up scoring numbers but does a lot of other things to affect winning. On Wednesday, he had 11 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 steals. In spite of his unwillingness to shoot 3’s, he is very dangerous and is always a threat to drive to the hoop and get second chance points.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the key to winning every game. The Celtics are 17th in the league with a defensive rating of 109.8 while the Sixers are 4th with a defensive rating of 106.1. It will be very important for the Celtics to play tough team defense and keep the Sixers from finding any rhythm on offense. The Celtics must match or exceed the Sixers effort and intensity on defense. The Celtics also need to defend without fouling.
Rebound - The Sixers are 6th in the league with 46.8 rebounds per game. The Celtics are 12th with 45.0 rebounds per game. The Celtics have got to box out and keep the Sixers off the boards. Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics have got to give extra effort if they want best the Sixers to rebounds. If the Celtics want to win this one, it is crucial that they go all out to crash the boards.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics had 16 turnovers on Wednesday and they need to cut down on turnovers in this one. The Celtics must move the ball and find the open man but they also must make careful passes and not turn the ball over. The Sixers are first in the league with 16.8 fast break points per game. If the Celtics get careless with the ball, the Sixers will make them pay.
Focus - The Celtics must come into the game focused and stay focused on playing the right way throughout the game. Against the Knicks they missed open shots, shooting 30% from the field and 15% from beyond the arc. It wasn’t the Knicks’ defense but their lack of focus because they also shot just 62% from the line. On Wednesday, they also seemed to lack focus as they committed too many fouls and once again shot just 65% from the line. They must have better focus in this game.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team. They have to be more aggressive in going after loose balls, in grabbing rebounds, in defending, and in going to the basket. They have to be the team that wants it more. The more aggressive team usually gets the benefit of the calls and on Wednesday, that was the Sixers.
Road Game - In spite of having no fans, the Sixers have continued to play much better at home than they do on the road. They have lost just one game there so far this season. There are inconveniences on the road, especially during this pandemic, that make playing on the road tougher for players. The Celtics need to work through those things and not allow them to affect their play.
Revenge Game - The Celtics have Wednesday’s loss to the Sixers fresh in their minds and they need to come out with the mindset that they are going to do what it takes to correct their mistakes and get this win. They will still be short handed without Jayson Tatum and the Sixers will get a boost from getting Curry back but the Celtics have to come out with an aggressive mindset and stay focused from start to finish.
Officiating - Officiating always has the potential to be an x-factor. Every crew calls the game a little bit differently. Some call it tight. Some let the teams play. Some refs have an agenda and others call it fair. Some officials are just plain bad. The Celtics have to adjust to the way they are calling the game and not let the calls that go against them take away their focus on playing the right way.