The Boston Celtics are in Philadelphia on Wednesday night to take on the Sixers in an early season battle for first place in the Eastern Conference. While the Celtics have been sitting atop the standings, where they were expected to be, the new-look Philadelphia 76ers have won five straight games and are right at the top with the Celtics.
Wizards vs. Sixers Game Info
Who: Boston Celtics (5-1) at Philadelphia 76ers (5-1)
When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pa.
Watch: NBA League Pass, NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Boston
Celtics vs Sixers Betting Info
Spread: Celtics -2 | Sixers +2
Moneyline: Celtics -130| Sixers +110
What to look for from the Sixers
The Sixers are coming off a 146-128 dismantling of the Washington Wizards on Monday that saw MVP Joel Embiid finish with 48 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists in just 31 minutes of play. The win was to be expected, as the Wizards are one of the worst teams in the league. What wasn’t expected was Embiid’s ridiculous output.
Guard Tyrese Maxey finished with 22 points and 11 assists in the game, his second game in a row with over ten assists. Tobias Harris kicked in 18 points, DeAnthony Melton had 14 points, and newly acquired Nick Batum had 11 points. The Sixers were playing well and getting everyone involved against a severely outmatched opponent.
All of that should gear the Sixers up for the early season matchup against the rival Celtics, who took three of four regular-season games last season against Philly and defeated them in seven games in the section round of the playoffs. The Sixers should be looking for some revenge with their revamped team. While you can’t expect Embiid to get another 48 points tonight, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him up in the high 30s as he’ll look to take advantage of mismatches down low against Kristaps Prozingis or Al Horford.
Guard Tyrese Maxey is going to have to play some of his best ball of the season, and Kelly Oubre Jr. will be looking to have a bounce back after only scoring three points against the Wizards. What they’ll need is quality defensive minutes from Robert Covington, Marcus Morris, Pat Beverly, and Paul Reed. Tonight’s game should be a good test for the Sixers as they are taking on one of the league’s best.
What to look for from the Celtics
The Celtics are coming in off a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night. The team played well, with Jason Tatum, Porzingis, True Holiday, Jaylen Brown, and Sam Hauser all scoring in double digits. The Timberwolves were just too much in the end, though.
Jason Tatum has picked up where he left off last season, as he’s currently averaging 30.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. He’s consistently shown why he’s considered one of the top players in the league. Where Tatum has improved, which is problematic for teams facing the Celtics, is his shooting in the early part of this season. He’s currently shooting 54.9% from the floor, compared to his career average of 46%, and he’s shooting 42% on his three-point attempts, well above his career average of 37.6%. If he keeps up this pace, it’ll be hard to keep his name out of the MVP conversation.
Tatum’s partner in crime, Jaylen Brown, is right alongside him, doing pretty much the same things he’s been doing over the past several years. Brown is averaging 23.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game, which are down from his averages last season but he’s playing well and getting used to having a point guard as good as True Holiday on the floor.
Speaking of Holiday, he’s having a good year for a top team, averaging 13.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists after coming to the Celtics in an October 1st trade with Portland. Holiday brings a solid veteran presence, leadership, and skill on both sides of the ball that the Celtics will need as they chase a championship.
What we’ll be watching for
The Celtics lept out to a 5-0 record to start the season. Much has been made about how great they’re playing, and they only suffered their first loss of the season on Monday to a talented Timberwolves team. The Sixers, who lost their first game of the year, have rattled off five straight victories since. Putting both teams atop the conference. Here’s where the Sixers can move ahead.
The Celtics have had all of the accolades and cheering from the media regarding their start, and despite not having won a title, the way they’re talked about is almost a foregone conclusion that they’ll be there at the end of the season. The Sixers have not had that much talk or positive reports. Most of the talk centers around them not having James Harden on the roster or that the Sixers haven’t beaten anyone with a winning record this season. The narrative has been set.
The interesting part is that the Celtics are the same. The Indiana Pacers, having beat the Spurs on Monday, are at 4-3, and that’s the only winning record of any of the Celtics opponents. They faced a very good Timberwolves team and were beaten. It’s just the Celtics mystique because you would have thought they’d traveled back in time and beat the showtime Lakers or the 2015-18 Warriors. They’ve beaten the Nets, Wizards, Heat, Knicks, and the aforementioned Pacers. It’s not exactly a “who’s who” of great teams in the league.
The Sixers, for their part, keep playing well. They’re integrating four new team members, adapting to first-year head coach Nick Nurse’s system, and playing without last year’s league assist leader, who also happened to give them 20+ points per game. Playing against some lesser opponents is beneficial for the start of the season so they can move parts around and see who fits best and where. That’s what they’ve done so far, and the results have been much better than anticipated. They just don’t count as much as the Celtics wins have, I guess.
With Embiid surely to be tough on the Celtics’ front court, the Sixers’ improved ball movement will give the Celtics more trouble than the Harden/Rivers model of isolation and walking the ball upcourt. This game is a good test for both teams and should be a fight until the very end.