The Celtics travel to Philadelphia for the 4th and final meeting with the 76ers this season. The Celtics will be looking for their 9th straight win and also to tie the series with the 76ers for the season as Philadelphia leads the series 2-1 after the first 3 games. The Celtics won 88-87 at Boston on December 1. Both teams were basically at full strength. The 76ers won 108-103 in Boston on December 20. Both teams were missing key players in that one. The 76ers won again 111-109 in Philadelphia on January 14. The Celtics were missing Smart while the Sixers were missing Green and Milton in that game.
The Celtics are 6th in the East and 1 game ahead of the 7th place Raptors. They have won 8 straight games and are 9-1 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 13-15 on the road and 23-14 against other Eastern Conference teams. They are 6-6 against Atlantic Division teams. They are 2 games behind 5th place Philadelphia and with a win in this game, they will gain a whole game on them. They are just 4 games out of 1st place.
The 76ers are 5th in the East and have won their last 2 games. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and 16-12 at home. The 76ers are 19-13 against other Eastern Conference teams and 4-6 against Atlantic Division teams. They are 2.5 games behind first place Miami and 2 games ahead of 6th place Boston. They are half a game behind 3rd place Cleveland and 2 games behind 2nd place Chicago. The standings at the top of the East are so close that every game is big from here on out.
The Celtics are 262-194 all time overall against the 76ers and 109-139 all time when playing on the road. Philadelphia won the last 6 games against the Celtics in Philadelphia. The 76ers are 1-1 with this starting lineup. This is the first of back to back games for the Celtics. They are 4-6 in the first of back to back games this season and they are they are 0-1 when the games are road/home.
The Celtics are playing on the road in between two home games. They will face Detroit at home on Wednesday. They will then head out on a 3 game road trip to Brooklyn, Detroit, and Indiana. After 3 games on the road they will return to the Garden for a 3 game home stand. This is the final game of a 4 game home stand for the Sixers. They will begin a 3 game road trip starting on Thursday in Milwaukee.
The Celtics have been healthy through their recent 8 game win streak. Marcus Smart (non-covid illness) and Robert Williams (calf strain) were both late additions to the injury list on Tuesday and and are both questionable. Daniel Theis is day to day as they wait for the trade to be official and for him to get acclimated to the Celtics system. Also he may need to regain his conditioning after not playing for awhile in Houston. James Harden is in Philadelphia and participated fully in practice on Monday but they are holding him out of the final two games before the All Star break and he will miss the All Star Game.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
Daniel Theis (pending trade and conditioning) day to day
Marcus Smart (non-covid illness) questionable
Robert Williams III (calf tightness)
Probable 76ers Starters
PG: Tyrese Maxey
SG: Danny Green
SF: Matisse Thybulle
PF: Tobias Harris
C: Joel Embiid
James Harden (hamstring) out
Two Way Players
Charlie Brown, Jr
Robert Williams III vs Joel Embiid
Embiid is playing as well as anyone in the league and has to be at the top of the MVP conversation. He is coming off a 40 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and 3 steal game against the Cavaliers on Saturday. He is averaging 29.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. He is shooting 48.8% from the field and 33.4% from beyond the arc. Embiid is averaging 26.3 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game against the Celtics this season. The Celtics need to do their best to make things difficult for him and especially not allow him easy baskets and rebounds in the paint.
Al Horford vs Tobias Harris
Harris is averaging 18.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He is shooting 48.7% from the field and 35.4% from beyond the arc. In the Celtics’ loss on December 20, Harris had 25 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. The Celtics definitely need to keep him out of the paint and challenge his outside shots.
Marcus Smart vs Tyrese Maxey
Maxey is averaging 17.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. He is shooting 47.5% from the field and 40.0% from beyond the arc. With Seth Curry in Brooklyn now, Maxey will be one of their biggest threats from the perimeter.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the key to winning every game. The Celtics have climbed to 2nd with a defensive rating of 105.0. The Sixers are 8th with a defensive rating of 108.4. The Celtics are 18th, averaging 108.4 points per game while the Sixers are 21st, averaging 107.6 points per game. 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 - Rebounding is second to defense as a key to winning. It takes effort to get rebounds and the Celtics must go all out in their effort to beat the Sixers on the boards. The Celtics are 2nd in the league with 46.8 rebounds per game. The Sixers are 30th with 42.3 rebounds per game. The Celtics need to keep the Sixers from getting second chance points around the basket and they 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.
Effort and Focus- The Celtics need to get 100% effort from every player and they need to stay focused if they want to get a win in this game. They need to come out and play hard from the start and not let up until the final buzzer. They need to stay focused on playing Celtics basketball and on playing defense. The Celtics have to focus on taking good shots and on not turning the ball over. They have to give maximum effort from the opening tip until the final buzzer.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the team that plays harder and that wants this win more. They have to be aggressive in diving for loose balls, in going to the basket, in getting stops on the defensive end, in closing out the passing lanes, and in going after rebounds. The Celtics must be the more aggressive team from start to finish. If they start out slowly like they did against the Hawks, they may not be able to catch up in this one. The Celtics need to play with the energy and aggressiveness that we have been seeing in their 8 game win streak.
Road Game - The Sixers have home court advantage in this one and the Celtics need to be extra focused and play harder than the Sixers. There are inconveniences on the road that make playing on the road tougher for teams. That’s why they call it home court advantage. The Celtics need to work through those things and not allow them to affect their play.
Coaching - Doc Rivers was the Celtics coach for their 2008 championship and left the team when he thought that they were going to be rebuilding. Some people feel that he is one of the better coaches in the league while others who cheer for the teams he has coached would disagree. The Celtics have a first time head coach who is learning the ins and outs of head coaching. Ime has shown growth from the beginning of the season until now and the players are buying in to his system. Can Ime out coach the much more experienced Doc Rivers?
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.