This evening, the Boston Celtics will face the Philadelphia 76ers on the road. Their second matchup within weeks of each other, these two teams will matchup for a total of four times this year. Last season, the Boston won the regular season series 3-1, and defeated Philadelphia 4-3 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The C’s are 8-2 in their last ten matchups with the Sixers, and have a 267-197 record against them all time. Tonight, Boston returns to the City of Brotherly Love where they have an all-time record of 90-129.
The Celtics are coming off three consecutive victories against the New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, and the Brooklyn Nets. Starting tonight, the C’s will begin their four-game road stretch, and will finish out their schedule in Toronto, Memphis, and Charlotte. Their fourth game in five days, Boston will look to take control of the East, in which they are tied with the Sixers at 8-2.
The Celtics have held their last two opponents to under 100 points a game, and shot over 50 percent from the field in back-to-back nights. Figuring out ways to score outside the three, it looks as if Boston is starting to gel, specially with Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser in the second unit.
For Philadelphia, they will attempt to forget their recent 132-126 In-Season Tournament loss against the Indiana Pacers. Although they will host the C’s at home tonight, they will play their next six of ten matchups on the road.
Under newly signed head coach Nick Nurse, the 76ers are the team to beat in the East (along with Boston), and flaunt the third best offensive rating in the NBA. With Philadelphia clear of the James Harden drama, they have new assets in Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris Sr., and KJ Martin. A top seven defensive team, the 76ers lead the league in blocks per game.
For Boston, they pride themselves on defense, in which they are a top three team under head coach Joe Mazzulla. One of leagues strongest top six, the C’s are a top five offensive squad. The Celtics will look to bounce back after a 106-103 loss against the rejuvenated Sixers. Although Mazzulla’s squad had a well balance of attack on the offensive end, they didn’t have an answer for Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, who scored a combined 52 points.
- Kristaps Porzingis (right knee contusion) - QUESTIONABLE
- Neemias Queta (right foot injury management) - QUESTIONABLE
- Jaylen Brown (Non-Covid Illness)
- Nicolas Batum (personal reasons)- DAY-TO-DAY
- Kelly Oubre Jr. (fractured Rib)- OUT
PROBABLE CELTICS STARTERS
- PG, #4: Jrue Holiday
- SG, #9: Derrick White
- SF, #7: Jaylen Brown*
- PF, #0: Jayson Tatum
- C, #4: Kristaps Porzingis*
*If Kristpas Porzingis is unable to suit up tonight, I expect Al Horford to start.
*If Jaylen Brown is out for tonight’s game, expect Sam Hauser to start
- G, #45: Dalano Banton
- G, #50: Svi Mykhailuk
- G, #11: Payton Pritchard
- G, #27: Jordan Walsh
- G, #20: JD Davidson (2-way player)
- F, #12: Oshae Brissett
- F, #30: Sam Hauser
- F, #77: Lamar Stevens
- F, #1: Nathan Knight (2-way player)
- C, #40: Luke Kornet
- C, #88: Neemias Queta (2-way player)
CELTICS HEAD COACH
- Joe Mazzulla
PROBABLE 76ERS STARTERS
- PG, #0: Tyrese Maxey
- SG, #8: De’Anthony Melton
- SF, #12: Tobias Harris
- PF, #40: Nicolas Batum
- C, 21: Joel Embiid
- G, #22: Patrick Beverly
- G, #23: Terquavion Smith (2-way player)
- G, #39: Javonte Smart (2-way player)
- G, #16: Ricky Council IV (2-way player)
- G, 30: Furkan Korkmaz
- G, #11: Jaden Springer
- F, #25: Danuel House Jr.
- F, #5: Marcus Morris Sr.
- F, #1: KJ Martin
- F, #44: Paul Reed
- P: #33: Robert Covington
- C, #7: Mo Bamba
RAPTORS HEAD COACH
- Darko Rajakovic
Keys for a C’s W
Paint touches and interior presence: Last matchup, the 76ers brutally dominated the Celtics inside, which led to a 16-point differential in post points. For Boston, their offense was stagnant, and they couldn’t hit many shots from beyond the arc. Over the last few matchups, this team has improved their various was of scoring, and will have to do so tonight. Along with Jayson Tatum, the C’s have greatly improved their post-up game this season.
Control the boards: : Let’s face it, it’s hard for any team to keep up with Joel Embiid inside. Tonight, the Celtics will need to control the rebounds, although that may be a challenge if Porzingis and Brown are both out tonight. Outrebounded by 13, Philadelphia was able to put up 19 total second chance points. Good box outs on the defensive end will stop the second chance points.
Run the offense through Jayson Tatum: I know it sounds cliche, but your star player only had 16 points on 14 shot attempts last matchup. After posting up a +42 game against the Raptors, It’s evident the Celtics are a far superior team with Tatum on the court. He’s playing some of the best basketball in his career, and it will be imperative he gets involved, especially late down the stretch.
Take threes, but find ways to create open looks: Last matchup, many would say Boston took too many three-pointers. Yes, they finished on 31 percent shooting from long range. For me, it’s not the volume of shots, it’s the creation of shot opportunities. As good as Philadelphia is defensively, Boston can’t be caught dancing at the top. It will be vital to play inside out basketball, set good screens, use the double coverage, and the pick and pop to get some decent outside looks. As of late, the Celtics have immensely improved their shot selection.