The Sixers’ seven-game win streak died at the hands of Gordon Hayward and the Hornets on Wednesday. They try to bounce back tonight in the friendly confines of South Philly against the Celtics. Boston is sitting at 21-21, currently out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. I will be heading down to The Center for the matchup. I’m not sure I can live with myself if I have to watch the Celtics move above .500 in person.
Here are a few notes and observations from me ahead of the 7:00 p.m. ET tipoff:
- This game was originally scheduled to air at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN. The network pulled this game off the air a few weeks back given that both the Sixers and the Celtics have been worse than anticipated during the first half of this season. ESPN telling you that your favorite team is increasingly irrelevant on the national stage is a burn. Besides wanting the Sixers to simply grab a W, I really wanted the Sixers to beat Charlotte so the Sixers would be riding this big eight-game win streak and make ESPN look dumb for taking the Sixers off the air, especially with Joel Embiid once again putting together an MVP-caliber campaign.
- I hate the Celtics. Is it like the way I go full lizard brain Neanderthal when the Eagles play the Cowboys in the NFL? No, but I do truly hate them. I looked back on Sixers-Celtics games in the Joel Embiid era, starting with the 2016-17 season (including games Embiid didn’t play). The Sixers are 10-11 in the regular season against the Cs in the span. That’s actually a better record than I’d thought it’d be in the Sixers’ favor.
What obviously dooms the Sixers in this rivalry is the lack of postseason success. The Celtics had a gentleman’s sweep of the Sixers in the 2018 Eastern Conference Semifinals and swept the Sixers outright in the first round of the 2020 bubble playoffs. The bubble playoffs should be ripped out of the NBA history books, so that doesn’t really count, but 2018 still stings. That’s my favorite Sixers team ever. The 50-plus win season was unexpected, the Sixers’ future ceiling seemed limitless and they had a lovable cast of role players in addition to their two young stars. If you asked me four years ago, I’d never trade Ben Simmons for Boston forward Jaylen Brown. I’d cut off the thumb on my left hand for that deal to go through now. Times have changed!
- Embiid’s career regular season stats against the Celtics (16 games): 26.6 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game on 58.8 percent true shooting percentage.
Embiid’s overall career regular season numbers: 25.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game on 59.7 percent true shooting percentage.
I’m not going to lie. I assumed Embiid’s efficiency was worse against the Cs. Those playoff series losses are seriously messing with my head.
- Enes Freedom, huh? That’s... something.
- Andrew Toney used to live rent-free in Celtics fans’ heads. Larry Bird once claimed that he feared Toney more than Michael Jordan himself. The Boston Strangler was a bucket and a problem:
- I’m not sure if I’m going to get one of those gigantic slices of pizza (the arena’s contract with the iconic Lorenzo and Sons Pizza ended and now they do their own imitation that’s still pretty decent) or hot honey boneless wings from P.J. Whelihan’s tonight. I’m typically a classic wing guy who doesn’t order boneless wings (those are just chicken nuggets?), but when you’re sitting at a sporting event, I can’t look like a disgusting slob pig, using 500 napkins to clean myself up and get sauce all over my black Champion Dikembe Mutombo jersey.