The Philadelphia 76ers are traveling up to Boston for a meeting with the Boston Celtics. Coming off a win against the Denver Nuggets, the Sixers are looking to win their third game in a row against a playoff-caliber team. This game marks the return of Al Horford to the Boston Celtics so it’ll be interesting to see how he’s received. Hoford spent three seasons with the Celtics before signing with the Sixers this offseason.
There is a lot of history between these two franchises, there was and still is bad blood between the players. From Wilt and Bill Russell, to Dr. J choking Larry Bird, now it appears the next rivalry is between Ben Simmons and Jaylen Brown. Since they were both drafted in 2016 Brown has taken issue with Simmons. Brown felt he deserved to be drafted over Simmons and ever since, has looked for every chance to talk trash. Brown recently called Celtics rookie Grant Williams “Ben Simmons” because of his poor three-point shooting. Simmons is a popular rival for the Celtics as he and Jayson Tatum seem to have their careers tied also.
With as many story-lines as there are tonight, this game is considered a must-watch. The Sixers need to focus on playing their brand and controlling this game from the jump.
Keys to the Game
Silence the crowd
The TD Garden up in Boston can get pretty loud if you let them, especially with electric players like Kemba Walker. If the Sixers can take the fans out of the equation it will help them two-fold. Playing on the road is difficult and opposing fans can always get in your head so by limiting that you’re maximizing your play. You can also slow down the home team if you control the crowd.
Players like Kemba Walker feed off the crowd’s energy. If you can silence the crowd you’ll take away that chance of Kemba rallying. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown also feed off the crowd so as odd as it may seem, one of the biggest opponents for the Sixers is the home crowd.
Help Prevent Cardiac Kemba
Kemba Walker is not considered a top-tiered player in the NBA, many wouldn’t even put them in the top ten. In spite of this Kemba Walker is one of the most dangerous scorers in the entire league. He may rank 16th in points per game, but when he’s hot he’s near the Devin Booker/Trae Young tier (James Harden is in a league of his own as a scorer).
It will take a team effort to defend Kemba so the Sixers will need to use start with their best on-ball defender. The Sixers will need Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson to alternate defending Walker while keeping back-up defenders close. The obvious name I left off that shortlist is surging Sixers rookie Matisse “the thief” Thybulle. Matisse is a terrific defender and a defensive ball-hawk. What he isn’t is a great on-ball defender, at-least, not yet. Having him guard top players like Walker will be key for his development but in a key game on the road against a division rival it may not be the time.
The Celtics offense starts and stops with Kemba Walker and if you can slow him down, likewise the whole offense will sputter.
Unsurprisingly, this game will not be an easy win, the Celtics are a talented team and the Sixers don’t thrive on the road. After Shaq called out Joel Embiid, I would hope Embiid would use tonight’s game to show he wants to be great, not good. Whether or not that will happen will have to wait until tonight. The Celtics have a tendency of playing the Sixers well, I sincerely hope that I’m wrong but I expect the Sixers to fall on the road yet again.
Final Score: Sixers 109 – Celtics 119
Tonight’s action starts at 8:00 PM, you can watch it on TNT or listen live at 97.5 FM the Fanatic.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports