Following a loss to the Grizzlies, the Sixers will be back in action for a matchup with the Celtics for the third time this season.
The Sixers will continue to chip away at their grueling schedule with a matchup with the Boston Celtics tonight. The team took advantage of a much-needed day of rest yesterday, following the blowout loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in which the Sixers seem to have nothing in the tank.
This game will take place in Boston and be the first of four straight on the road for the Sixers. Tip-off will be at 7:30, and it will be important to start off on the right foot for what will be another tough road trip.
The Celtics sit at 7th place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 25-25. They are led by two all-star wings in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who each average over 24 points and 5 rebounds per game. Kemba Walker is also a player to watch as he has begun to find his stride in recent games. Kemba has raised his scoring average up to 17.9 points per game on the season. It is also noteworthy that he has a career average of 19.0 points per game against the Sixers.
Despite being slightly undersized, the Celtics excel on the offensive glass. As a whole, the team collects 29.3% of their missed shots which is top-5 in the NBA. The Celtics also have a stingy defense in which they rank top 10 in both steals and blocks. The Celtics have struggled to find a true offensive identity this season in their isolation-based playstyle but have shown recent signs of life and are 7-3 in their last 10 games.
The Celtics will be without Evan Fournier and Tristan Thompson due to health and safety protocols. Fournier was the Celtics’ true prize of the trade deadline. It took just two second-round picks to attain the 28-year-old wing, who is expected to help the Celtics’ 26th ranked scoring bench. Thompson has been out for close to three weeks now due to what was seemingly a positive Covid test. This is his 10th straight game missed, and the extra depth at the big man position would be a major help for the Celtics tonight.
The Sixers and Celtics will be matching up for the third time this season. The Sixers have gotten the upper hand over their Eastern Conference rivals in each of the first two matchups, which occurred in late January. These games were both played in Philly and were the start to a 7-1 run that the Sixers went on.
The matchups were both dominated by Joel Embiid, who combined for 80 points across the two games. The Celtics have made one change to their big man situation since these matchups as they traded away Daniel Theis at the trade deadline in a deal that landed them Moritz Wagner and Luke Kornet.
Since being traded, Wagner has yet to play more than 16 minutes in a game, and his most impressive stat line has been a three-point and five rebound performance against the Milwaukee Bucks. Kornet has been slightly more productive in his early games with the Celtics. The 7’2 big has averaged 4.8 points and 3.6 rebounds in 14 minutes per game across 5 games with the C’s. While the trade was a youthful move with wise financial implications, neither player makes a drastic impact on the Celtics’ chances of winning.
After splitting their last back-to-back, the Sixers now hold a record of 34-16. They sit a half-game behind the Nets for first-place in the East and will look to make this up as soon as possible. Finishing first in the conference has been a clear goal for the team throughout the season, so the fight for the top spot is far from over.
Joel Embiid is expected to rejoin the lineup tonight after wisely sitting out the second leg of the back-to-back for precautionary reasons. This is a major difference-maker for the Sixers as the team’s biggest strength aligns with the Celtics’ biggest weakness. Since the Theis trade, Robert Williams III has stepped into the starting role for the Celtics, but the 6’8 center has proven to be no problem for Joel Embiid in previous matchups.
George Hill remains out in this matchup due to his thumb injury. There has still been no set timetable for his return, but the veteran point guard was able to begin non-contact practice last week and is expected to increase intensity in the coming days. This is great news for his return, and the boost he will provide to the bench unit may be set to occur sooner rather than later.
Despite being ruled out of the previous matchup due to the health and safety protocols, Tyrese Maxey is listed as probable for the matchup against the Celtics tonight. The rookie registered an inconclusive test prior to the Grizzlies game but has repetitively tested negative for Covid and should be good to go in this matchup.
This is expected to be a close matchup as Vegas has set the Sixers as 1.5 point favorites as game-time approaches. This will be a bounce-back game for the Sixers as the previous loss left a bad taste in just about everyone’s mouth. When asked if there were any positives to take away from the blowout loss to the Grizzlies, Doc Rivers put it., “Not really,” and continued to offer the positive spin that, “We got out of it healthy.”
In his first game back, Joel Embiid had some rust to shake off but managed to score 24 points along with 8 rebounds. Given the matchup advantage, Embiid will likely be the focal point of the offense, so this may be a true test of his knee’s recovery. The Sixers will also continue to rely on Tobias Harris and Danny Green’s consistent scoring and hope for Shake Milton to continue to inject life into the Sixers offense as well.