The Celtics host the Philadelphia 76ers for the 3rd and final regular season meeting between these division rivals this season. The Celtics lost the first 2 meetings in back to back games in Philadelphia. The 76ers won 117-109 on January 20 and again, 122-110 on January 20. The Celtics were without Jayson Tatum for those games while the 76ers were pretty much at full strength.
The Celtics are a bit different this time around. They have added Evan Fournier, who has found his range in the last two games. They also are starting Robert Williams, who has been playing very well on both ends of the court. They will have Jayson Tatum this time around as well. They also no longer have Jeff Teague and Daniel Theis and have 2 young centers in Moe Wagner and Luke Kornet coming off the bench. Will that be enough to get the Celtics past the Sixers this time? We shall soon see.
The Celtics are 7th in the East, half a game ahead of the the Knicks (8th) and half a game behind Charlotte (6). They are 1 game behind both Miami(5) and Atlanta(4). They are 2 games ahead of Indiana (9). They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 15-9 at home. They have won their last 2 games. Philadelphia is 2nd in the East, half a game behind the Nets. They are 1.5 games ahead of 3rd place Milwaukee and 9 games ahead of Boston. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games and 14-11 on the road. They are coming off a loss to Memphis on Sunday.
Romeo Langford finally made his long awaited debut on Sunday and showed some good things on both ends of the court. Tristan Thompson (covid) is still out for the Celtics. Evan Fournier was added to the list as out for health and safety protocols. Semi Ojeleye was not on the list this morning.
For the 76ers, Joel Embiid returned on Saturday against Minnesota after sitting out 10 games with a knee injury. He sat out Philadelphia’s loss to the Grizzlies on Sunday, though. He is expected to play in this one. George Hill (thumb) is listed as out and Tyrese Maxey (covid) is listed as probable.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Robert Williams III
Tristan Thompson (covid) out
Evan Fournier (covid) out
Probable 76ers Starters
PG: Ben Simmons
SG: Seth Curry
SF: Danny Green
PF: Tobias Harris
C: Joel Embiid
George Hill (thumb) out
Tyrese Maxey (covid) probable
Robert Williams vs Joel Embiid
Embiid is averaging 29.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. He is shooting 52.3% from the field and 40.4% from beyond the arc. In the first two games vs the Celtics, he had 42 and 38 points to go with 10 and 11 rebounds. Slowing him down is definitely a key to getting a win over the Sixers. The Celtics need to guard him both in the paint and on the perimeter. They also have to defend him without fouling as he averages almost 8 free throws per game and took 17 the last time he played the Celtics.
Jayson Tatum vs Tobias Harris
Harris has been playing very well and is averaging 20.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. He is shooting 52.5% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. If you leave him open, he will definitely make you pay. He will also make things difficult for Tatum to find open shots.
Kemba Walker vs Ben Simmons
Simmons is averaging 15.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He is shooting 54.5% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. However, he has only taken 9 total 3 pointers this season, making just 3 of them. He is also a good defender and will make it tough for Kemba on offense.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the key to winning every game. The Celtics are 16th in the league with a defensive rating of 111.7 while the Sixers are 2nd with a defensive rating of 107.2. 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.
Rebound - With the size of the Sixers front line and starters, the Celtics are going to have to work hard in order to get rebounds. The Sixers are averaging 13.9 second chance points per game and so the Celtics need to rebound to limit those second chance points and they also need to give themselves extra possessions by rebounding on the offensive end. If the Celtics want to win this one, it is crucial that they go all out to crash the boards.
Move the Ball - Each Celtic need to play with unselfishness and move the ball and not play hero ball. They need to move without the ball to get open and they need to move the ball to find the open man and the best shot. The Celtics have shown good ball movement and they have moved without the ball much better in their last 2 games. They had 35 assists against the Rockets and 29 assists vs the Hornets. They need to continue that trend in this game. Ball movement will be very important to beating the Sixers defense.
Energy and Aggressiveness - The Celtics need to play with energy and they need to be aggressive in getting to the basket and playing defense and fighting for loose balls and just playing hard all around. They have to come out strong at the beginning and play hard throughout right up until the final buzzer with no let up. The Celtics have to play harder and with more energy than the Sixers if they hope to get a win.
Home Game - The Celtics are at home and have fans in the building. The Sixers are dominant at home with a 20-5 record but they have not been as dominant on the road with just 14 wins and 11 losses away from home. The Celtics need to take advantage of the Sixers being on the road and use that to give them the edge they need to win this.
Celtic Pride - The Sixers have won both meetings between these two teams so far this season. The Celtics are likely to see the Sixers at some time in the playoffs. They have to give 100% effort and bring the motivation to get a win to avoid a sweep by one of their chief rivals.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game a little bit differently. Some call it tight. Some let the teams play. Some favor the home team while others favor the visiting team. Some refs have an agenda and others call it fair. 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.