After defeating the Celtics in the first leg of the back-to-back the rivals are back at it tonight. Led by a 42 point performance from Joel Embiid, the Sixers were able to secure a victory by a score of 117-109. There is no time for the team to rest on their laurels and here are the three main storylines to watch:
Seth Curry returns to Sixers lineup
Seth Curry began the season on an unreal tear. Prior to testing positive for Covid, Curry was setting career highs across the board. Through 8 games he was averaging 17 points and 3.6 assists. On top of this, he was shooting an unreal (and impossible to maintain) rate of 59.5% from 3. The Duke product is leading the league in true shooting percentage at .795.
While these numbers will come back to earth to some extent, the value Curry adds to the team is still very much there. He has become exactly what this Sixers team needed and his floor spacing magnitude has been evident from the jump.
The chemistry in the two-man game with Joel Embiid was just beginning to take shape prior to Curry being shut down so look for this to be added back into the offensive playbook.
Expectations should be tempered some as he has been in isolation for two-weeks so Doc Rivers may limit his minutes until he settles in. Regardless, the biggest thing to look for in this game will be for Curry to build back the chemistry that was beginning to form prior to him being shut down.
This will also likely mean that rookie Tyrese Maxey will return to the bench as Curry will slide back into his spot in the starting lineup. Maxey has made the most of his opportunity with his increase in minutes and established himself as a key contributor to the team. Similar to what is the case with Shake Milton, for the time being, it may serve Maxey best to come off the bench where he can serve as a change of pace and play his own style rather than molding it around guys like Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and the rest of the starters.
Celtics Injury Concerns
Jayson Tatum has officially been ruled out for this game as well, which greatly limits the Celtics’ style of play and overall hopes of winning. Tatum is the most dynamic player on the C’s roster and their offense drastically changes without him in there. If the Sixers look to remain true championship contenders and “top dogs” on the Eastern conference, there is no excuse to lose games to teams without their best player.
After missing the first 11 games of the season with a knee injury, Kemba Walker returned in the first Sixers matchup. Walker was given a minutes restriction of 20 minutes going into the first game but slightly exceeded this by playing 22. “Cardiac” Kemba looked sharp finishing with 19 points and 6 assists in these limited minutes.
Brad Stevens has increased the minutes limit in the “range between 25 and 28 minutes,” coming into this one which should be a concern for the Sixers. While they may have been caught off guard by him looking so sharp in his first minutes of the season, Kemba must be a primary focus on the defensive end for every second he is in the game.
The Celtics will also be without Romeo Langford and Carsen Edwards which limits the C’s guard bench depth. Rookie sharpshooter Aaron Nesmith is also questionable with back spasms. It is a pleasant change for the Sixers to be the healthier team and they should look to take full advantage of it in this game.
Sixers Must Continue to Feed Embiid
It has been two days since the last matchup and there is no sign of anything changing in the Celtics’ ability to match up against Embiid. It seems unlikely that Tristan Thompson has improved his footwork in these two days and even more unlikely that Daniel Theis has grown a few inches. Both of these big men struggled to avoid fouling Joel Embiid and Thompson, Theis, and Grant Williams picked up 5 fouls each as a result of this. The tallest of these three big man options is Tristan Thompson at 6’9 and there is simply no one on the Celtics roster who can match Embiid’s physical presence.
Embiid was artful in his decision making as he read how the defense played him and made his decision from there. Joel has shown major growth this season in his ability to pass out of the post and he put this on display whenever the Celtics doubled down on him. He finished the game with just 1 turnover and was praised by Doc Rivers for letting the game come to him. Expect the defense to fade over to him more often in this second matchup as Embiid was able to get a basket or get to the line (no matter how much Marcus Smart complains) at will.
Currently sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference, this is a great opportunity for the Sixers to add another one in the win column. It is never easy with the Celtics but the Sixers should be able to handle their shorthanded squad. As it stands The Sixers are 5 point favorites on FanDuel as well as most available betting sites. Fans should be excited to see the true final starting lineup return to form and for the team to find its full rhythm once again after surviving its first Covid scare.
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