“This is not a rivalry. I don’t know our record against them, but it’s pretty bad. They always kick our ass.” – Joel Embiid
Allow me to paint the brutal reality of the Philadelphia 76ers facing the Boston Celtics, tonight, Joel. Tonight, the Sixers resume this budding rivalry that isn’t much of a rivalry as Embiid himself has said after the 105-87 loss in October.
The Sixers lost to the Celtics again 121-114 in overtime on Christmas Day then again on February 12th, 112-109. Add those two losses to the grand total over the last five years, and including playoff games, the Sixers are 3-21 against Boston.
Needless to say, that is discouraging AF.
They get another shot at Boston, tonight, in the comfort of the Wells Fargo arena. The Sixers are 28-9 at home while the Celtics are 17-17 away from TD Garden, so that’s … something.
These Sixers are different from the ones Boston faced in February. Tobias Harris wasn’t the fourth star in the starting lineup, and Jimmy Butler has been playing better and more aggressively, lately. In the month of March, Butler is averaging 20/5/5. Here’s what’s even more encouraging. Butler is shooting 33% from three on 15 attempts.
(It’s a small sample size, but he’s not blatantly turning down open threes. Baby steps, guys.)
Even more important is the Sixers seem to have some decent bench options aside from TJ McConnell (depending on how you feel about TJ). Mike Scott is hitting 40% of his threes since coming over from the Los Angeles Clippers with Boban Marjanović. He also provided one of the funniest moments this season on Sunday.
James Ennis – another deadline acquisition – probably ended the “tournament” suggested by head coach Brett Brown between him and Johnathan Simmons.
After beating the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, the Sixers followed with a victory over the Charlotte Hornets. Embiid didn’t play against the Hornets, but he had a dominating performance against the Bucks: 40 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, and three steals in 35 minutes.
If the Sixers have any chance at defeating Boston, Embiid has to somehow evict Celtics center Al Horford from the living situation he claims inside his head. Embiid just doesn’t look like himself when he plays Boston. Not only is his shooting down (43.5% from his 47.9% career average), but he also gets taken advantage of on the defensive end because of Horford’s pick-and-pop ability.
It would definitely help if Butler stays as aggressive as he has been, and if Tobias Harris is banging threes early, that’d be nice as well. After his much documented one point performance against the Celtics in the playoffs, Ben Simmons has played pretty well against Boston this year:
- October 16: 19 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists
- December 25: 11 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists
- February 12: 16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists
The Celtics are 6-4 in their last ten games, and the Sixers have won five straight to reclaim the three seed in the East. Tonight isn’t “must win”, but for once this season, it would be nice to beat the Celtics.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics
When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic