The Philadelphia 76ers haven’t won a game against the Boston Celtics since April 14, 2014. In eight tries against the C’s since then, the Sixers have been outscored by an average of almost 15 points per game, repeatedly falling victim to the type of methodical, ball movement-heavy offense that tends to thwart Brett Brown’s squad.
With Joel Embiid protecting the rim at an elite level this season, the Sixers have fared much better defensively than in past seasons, with him taking their defense from 110.3 points per 100 possessions allowed (29th in the NBA) with him off the floor all the way up to 1st in the league at 98.8 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court; the team ranks 23rd overall this season. Unfortunately, Embiid will almost certainly sit tonight, as he played 27 minutes last night in a 105-88 loss to the Orlando Magic in Philadelphia.
With Nerlens Noel still yo-yoing between Philadelphia and its D-League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, for rehab assignment practices, the Sixers will lean upon Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes in the presumptive Rookie of the Year’s absence. Okafor is coming off undoubtedly his best game of the season, a 16-points, 13-rebound effort that saw him convert eight of the 10 shots he attempted.
Still, the second-year big man was a team-worst -19 in terms of plus-minus in 28 minutes. The last time Embiid sat due to rest, in a 122-95 road loss to the Toronto Raptors last week, Holmes played 23 minutes, finishing with 11 points, nine boards, a pair of steals, and a plus-minus of -6 that was a positive given the team’s 27-point margin of defeat.
For the Sixers, Jerryd Bayless remains in and out of the lineup with a lingering wrist injury. The veteran combo guard missed the team’s first 13 games with the injury before appearing in three straight last week. He’s missed each of Philadelphia’s last three games and is listed as “questionable” for Saturday night’s game against the Celtics. Boston should be at full strength.
In the midst of the best stretch of his pro career, Nik Stauskas had an uncharacteristically poor performance against the Magic on Friday. The third-year shooting guard missed all six shots he attempted, including three threes, in 25 minutes; he still finished the game with a season-high five assists. After the game, he stuck around to work on his jumper on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center as fans filed out of the building. On the year, Stauskas is averaging 9.7 points per game while shooting 48.9% from the floor and 43.2% from beyond the arc, all career highs.
Losers of their last five games, the Sixers have two more home games over the next three days before beginning a month-long stretch in which nine of their 14 games will be played on the road. Fortunately, though, nine games during that span will come against teams with losing records.