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Shorthanded Sixers face Boston Celtics looking to snap three-game skid

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Back on Dec. 11th, the Sixers enjoyed their best win of the entire season, defeating Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors 102-93. Matisse Thybulle made his case that evening for Defensive Player of the Year.

Since then there hasn’t been much good news. Doc Rivers’ group was shorthanded without Joel Embiid against the Memphis Grizzlies, but the Grizz didn’t have their superstar in Ja Morant either. Still Memphis had no trouble winning, 126-91. After that, Embiid returned to the lineup but couldn’t prevent a pair of back-to-back losses. First they fell to the Miami Heat, playing sans Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, 101-96. Then they dropped one to the Brooklyn Nets, missing James Harden and basically the rest of the Nets’ rotation. Kevin Durant, Patty Mills, Blake Griffin and some rookies got the job done in that one.

So now Philadelphia enters this week on a three game losing streak, having lost four of their last five. They sit at 15-15, in a tie for the 8th seed with... you guessed it, their next opponent, the rival Boston Celtics. If the season ended today, both Boston and Philadelphia would be in the Play-In tournament. There’s more than bragging rights on the line here, as home court during a single-elimination Play-In game would be very valuable.

Of course, we’re not even positive if there will be a game played. The Sixers were scrambling to hit the requisite number of available players for Sunday’s tilt versus the New Orleans Pelicans, before that game was postponed.

Per ESPN’s Adrian Wornarowski on Twitter:

That news coming before the next big update:

A wave of COVID cases is hitting the NBA (and the world) very hard. For now we do expect a game to be played.

If the league goes forward with the match, the Sixers will again have to tap into their “next man up” mentality which has defined this season for them as well as many other pro teams.

Center Andre Drummond and guard Shake Milton are out, joining forward Georges Niang in health and safety protocols. Furkan Korkmaz is figures to be out, dealing with a non-COVID illness. Joel Embiid is listed questionable, nursing a sore ankle from when he landed on Kyle Lowry in their loss to the heat. Beating rival Boston is special to Embiid so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him try to play through the soreness. Stellar sophomore Tyrese Maxey is also listed questionable with the quad contusion he sustained versus the Heat as well.

So they’re apparently calling up some reinforcements.

B-Ball Paul Reed, Aaron Henry, and Myles Powell, who they just signed after waiving Grant Riller, will be available. Does anyone have Tony Wroten’s number handy for a ten-day contract?

The Celtics defeated the Sixers 88-87 in an ugly game back on Dec. 1st. In that one, the Celts held Embid to a miserable 3 of 17 shooting. That 13 point performance was the 27 year-old’s lowest total of the young season so far. It wasn’t all because of Robert Williams and Enes Freedom’s defense. That was Embiid’s third game back after a three-week bout with a COVID infection which left him admittedly ailing. Even fully vaccinated players are getting sick, it’s costing them games, and in some cases, impacting their play upon return.

Philadelphia figures to have their hands full with Jayson Tatum. JT is averaging 26.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. He’s shooting just 33 percent from distance, but should be able to take advantage of this banged up Sixers group. His running mate, Jaylen Brown has heard his name pop up in trade rumors for Ben Simmons (still out for personal reasons). Brown is averaging 21 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 dimes per contest. He’s shooting 38.4 percent from three. But Brown has dealt with a persisting hamstring issue this season. He may have returned too early at one point. He returned to the lineup for three contests but isn’t quite back to 100 percent just yet.

It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the Sixers if this game were postponed as well. With so much uncertainty, it’s hard to focus on the results of these pandemic-impacted December games. The biggest concern is for the player’s health and the health of those around the teams.

Seeing so many players around the NBA test positive for the virus, most being fully vaccinated, makes this an especially scary time.

Maybe the league will consider taking a brief hiatus here to reduce the stadium capacity and get as many players and coaches boosted as possible before pushing forward. We’ll keep you posted, and if they play on, as always LB has your game coverage.

Game Info

Who: Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics

When: 7:30 pm ET, December 20, 2021

Where: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia

Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

Follow: @Liberty_Ballers