Sixers vs. Celtics: Game preview, TV Schedule & best betting promos for Game 7

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid (21) goes up to shoot against Boston Celtics’ Grant Williams, top, and Al Horford, right, during the second half of Game 3 in an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Friday, May 5, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

After squandering a chance to close out the series in game six, the Philadelphia 76ers have to play the Celtics one more time, facing elimination on the road. The Sixers have already won twice in Boston, but can they do it again? Which team will handle the pressure of advancing to the next round and ultimately face the Miami Heat?

Sixers vs. Celtics game info

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid drives against Boston Celtics’ Al Horford during the second half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference semifinal, Thursday, May 11, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Who: Sixers @ Celtics (series tied 3-3) 

When: Sunday, May 14, 2023, at 3:30 pm EST

Where: TD Garden, Boston, MA

How to watch: ABC

Betting odds

Spread: Sixers +6.5 | Celtics -6.5

Moneyline: Sixers +215 | Celtics -267

Points total: Over/Under 201

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Injury report

Boston: Danilo Gallinari

Philadelphia: none

Last time they met

Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum (0) shoots against Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey (0), James Harden (1), and De’Anthony Melton (8) during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference semifinal, Thursday, May 11, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Despite the excitement in the air and celebrities in the building, the 76ers could not seal the deal Thursday night, losing to Boston 86-95 in game six. The game could not have started any worse than it did. The Sixers went down double digits in the first quarter, and they could not seem to knock down any shots from anywhere on the floor.

Tobias Harris, James Harden, and Joel Embiid combined to shoot 2-for-15 in the first quarter. This put plenty of pressure on the team to climb out of the hole that Celtics players like Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams, and Marcus Smart helped dig. Those players went 9-for-10 early on, which sent a jolt of angst throughout the Wells Fargo home crowd.

Boston did have players of their own who could not find their shooting touch in the first half. Jayson Tatum scored just one point, and Al Horford went scoreless by the time halftime arrived. Tatum would come up big though in the final quarter, knocking down four 3-pointers to help Boston retake the lead and secure the victory. Tatum finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, and six assists.

The only positives for Philly on the night was the play of Tyrese Maxey and recovery of Joel Embiid, who couldn’t find his groove early. Maxey and Embiid finished with 26 points each. Maxey was that spark the Sixers needed to get back into the game and eventually take the lead in the second half. Embiid was essential with his defense, blocking three shots and grabbing 10 boards.

Neither was enough to compensate for the team’s poor shooting performance and lack of rebounding. While Boston shot 42 percent from the 3-point line, Philly shot an atrocious 23.5 percent. In total, the Celtics made 15 threes to the Sixers’ eight. The visiting team controlled the boards 50-38, as the 76ers were more focused on transition defense after so many missed shots.

Another factor that has been an Achilles heel in the semifinals for Philly was the bench. Their main reserves, Paul Reed, De’Anthony Melton, Georges Niang, and Danuel House, Jr., only scored nine points as a unit. Melton, who has disappeared in the series outside of game one, missed all five of his shots, several of which were wide-open looks. Reed played as if rushed, making mistakes and missing layups.

In the end, the Sixers’ bad start caused them to play from behind early. They did not seem ready to play, while Boston showed composure and focus. Was the Sixers’ horrid start because they felt pressure in front of the home crowd in a building ready to explode, or was the team just ice cold and needed to warm up? Both are fair questions, but if certain players were spooked by the intensity of the moment, they better get those jitters out. Game seven will be the biggest challenge this team has faced in years, with the weight of an entire fanbase’s hopes and expectations on its shoulders.

The time is now

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid (21) and P.J. Tucker celebrate during overtime of Game 4 in an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, May 7, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

It does not look good. No matter how you slice it, the franchise and current coach has not had tremendous success in elimination games going back 20-plus years. Justin Crosby of PSN Philly laid out the history of Sixers’ playoff game sevens for the team and Doc Rivers. 

If Philly has any chance to shake free of the bad postseason history this team has experienced in the past two decades, it will have to come from a place of focus and determination. It must be a collective effort, where offensive execution and defensive tenacity align for an entire game.

Why do the Sixers need to be so locked in? Not just because they will be playing in a hostile TD Garden or because the Celtics have the resolve and experience of winning a series last year being down 2-3 to the Bucks. Philly must also play in impeccable fashion because of the consequences.

Should the dominoes fall in favor of Boston, the 76ers organization could face a potential roster and coaching facelift in the offseason. Since Joel Embiid has led the Sixers in the playoffs starting in 2017, the team has never made it past the second round. Series losses to Atlanta, Miami, Toronto, and potentially three against Boston would send the fanbase spiraling into a pit of disappointment that could likely cause ownership to make drastic changes. 

For the Sixers to win on Mother’s Day 2023, there must be a Herculean effort. Every starter must contribute. Every role player off the bench must contribute. The coaching staff must be the ears and eyes for the players like never before. Performances like the one from Tobias Harris and De’Anthony Melton in game six will be unacceptable because Boston is just too good not to take advantage of voids from key opposing players.

The Sixers have proven they can win in Boston in this series. Yet, the stakes have never been higher. Turnovers must be limited because every possession counts even more. Boxing out and other fundamental aspects must be applied because the little things tend to have the biggest impact in crucial games.

Game seven on Sunday will surely be the biggest game of Joel Embiid’s career. For Doc Rivers, it will be his biggest game as the 76ers coach, considering the heightened expectations since James Harden was traded to Philly last season. For Harden, his addition to the team came with hope and excitement but also with apprehension. His postseason failures are just as palpable as Rivers and Embiid’s. For those three to step up in this current situation would help them push away the dark clouds that have hovered above them for years.

Expect the suspense to be through the roof in game seven. The Boston crowd will be the loudest it has been all season. Players’ nerves will be on edge, but only those able to slow the game down in their heads and apply their skills when their team needs them most will prevail. Hopefully, for Philly fans, those players will be wearing red, white, and blue.

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