It’s been a long time, but we’re back.
A lot has changed since the last time the Philadelphia 76ers played the Boston Celtics on October 16th. The Celtics won that game at TD Garden 105-87 behind 23 points from second-year forward Jayson Tatum. The Sixers got 19/15/8 from Ben Simmons and 23 and 10 from Joel Embiid.
The problem was that aside from those two (and JJ Redick’s 16), no one else did much. As a team, the Sixers shot less than 40% from the field.
In case the Celtics hadn’t noticed, things are a little different, now.
This will be the Sixers first meeting with Boston since the Jimmy Butler trade. Will that make a profound difference? We’ll see.
After finally getting a win over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night (even if Toronto was short-staffed), the Sixers sit at 22-12 – tied for third in the Eastern Conference two games up on Boston (19-13) for the five-seed.
Boston is 2-3 in their last five games beating the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets but dropping contests to the Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons, and Phoenix Suns. The Sixers have also only won two of their last five, but at least they’re on a two-game winning streak.
Both teams are going through the trials of integrating (or re-integrating) players into their lineup. As great as Jimmy Butler has been, he’s only averaging 18.5 ppg (albeit with a 120 ORtg) with the Sixers. The Celtics have been dealing with their own lineups.
Gordon Hayward – injured last year on the first game of the regular season never to return in 2017-2018 – is averaging 10.8 ppg. He’s played in 28 games (starting 16). Kyrie Irving is still the one that makes Boston work. He leads the Celtics in points and assists per game, but Tatum -- 16.8 ppg, .568 TS%, 124 ORtg – needs to be slowed.
It would be helpful if the Sixers defense kept those Boston three balls from going in, as well. The Celtics are fifth in the league in 3PA (1171) and eighth in 3P% (.360). On the flip side, they’re third in the league (.328) in defending the three pointer.
Boston – for whatever reason – is very good at defending Embiid. For his career, Embiid only has a 92 ORtg against the Celtics averaging just under 20 per game. Assuming Embiid is put in his place, the duty to carry the Sixers likely falls on Jimmy Butler – who will likely have his energy slightly drained defending Tatum all night.
The Celtics represent another test for the Sixers this season. They’ve already lost to the Raptors twice (#1 in the East), the Bucks (#2), and have split with the Pacers (#3 in the East). Today’s game isn’t “must win”, but a collective losing record against four of the East’s top teams wouldn’t be ideal.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers @ Boston Celtics
When: 5:30 pm EST
Where: Boston, MA, TD Garden
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Sixers: Markelle Fultz (out, shoulder), Zhaire Smith (out, foot), Justin Patton (out, foot)
Celtics: Aron Baynes (out, left fourth metacarpal fracture), Jabari Bird