Here they come!!
The Boston Celtics will look to get back into the win column on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, after dropping their first game of the season on Monday. Boston took care of Philly for the most part last year, winning three of four in the regular season. The two teams later met in the playoffs and things went the same way that they’ve been going since 1982 — with the Cs on top.
Both teams will enter their first meeting of the year with a record of 5-1, which has them tied at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. The Sixers’ strong start has come as somewhat of a surprise with all of the moving parts within the organization.
Head Coach Nick Nurse joined the team over the summer after Philly parted ways with old friend Doc Rivers.
Mentally preparing to watch Nick Nurse throw a tantrum with his mouth agape tonight— Sam LaFrance (@SamLaFranceNBA) November 8, 2023
Plus, the 76ers just traded away James Harden and PJ Tucker in a deal with the LA Clippers, netting Nicolas Batum, Robert Covington, and Marcus Morris Sr.
Despite all of the changes, Philadelphia has been able to ride the inspired play of reigning MVP Joel Embiid and budding star Tyrese Maxey, who took home the first Eastern Conference Player of the Week award of the young season.
Maxey has enjoyed the extra opportunity that he’s gotten with the departure of The Beard. Through six games, he’s averaged an efficient 25.5 points per contest to go along with 7.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds.
As for Embiid, it’s been business as usual. The 29-year-old has poured in 32.5 points per game, which is tied with Cleveland Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell for the top number in the association. He’s been able to affect the game in many different ways too, securing 11.0 rebounds, dishing 6.2 assists, and rejecting 2.0 shots per game.
Matchups to watch
The Celtics will have their work cut out for them when it comes to slowing down the Sixers duo. Luckily, they’re as well-equipped as anyone to do so.
Boston’s “Stock Exchange” backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Derrick White might be the best defensive duo in the NBA. White has missed the previous two games for the birth of his second child, but it sounds like he’ll be a go in Philly.
Derrick White is not here at Celtics shootaround but it sounds likely that he’ll be in Philly in time for tonight’s game.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) November 8, 2023
It’s not outrageous to believe that Joe Mazzulla will have at least one of the two on the floor at all times to try and handle Maxey.
Anytime Boston plays Philly, the Al Horford-Embiid matchup is always one to watch. The eldest Celtic had a great showing against the Sixers star in Game 7 last spring when he rejected a trio of shots by the big man.
However, the matchup has a new wrinkle to it this season with the addition of Kristaps Porzingis to Boston’s frontcourt. The seven-foot-four Latvian has been manning the middle all season with Horford coming off of the Celtics’ bench. It’ll be interesting to see if Mazzulla elects to roll with double bigs at Wells Fargo Center, rather than risk Porzingis getting into early foul trouble.
Keys for a Cs W
Don’t get killed by the other guys: Though the Sixers have a killer one-two punch, they’ve also got some solid role players. They brought in the aforementioned trio of forwards from LA, and also have Tobias Harris and the newly-acquired Kelly Oubre Jr., who’s been excellent for them. Oubre Jr. has averaged 18.0 points per game while shooting splits of 51.4-41.9 — not too bad for a guy on the minimum. Boston’s defensive talent should be enough to where the role players for Philly don’t go supernova.
Post, post, post: The Celtics have dominated games early on this year by running plenty of offense out of the post. Jayson Tatum, Porzingis, and even Holiday are fully capable of making things happen on the low block. The ability to instantly make the defense uncomfortable by just catching the ball low is something that the Cs have to continue to take advantage of. It was something that they went away from against Minnesota and it showed in the clutch.
Play clean: Through the first few weeks of the 2023-24 campaign, Embiid has averaged nearly 10 trips to the free throw line per contest. His ability to draw fouls has been a key component to his sustained career success. Boston’s frontcourt depth is good, but it does fall off quite a bit after Horford and Porzingis. It’ll be important for those two to stay out of foul trouble so players like Luke Kornet and Lamar Stevens don’t have to eat too many minutes at the center spot.