Since acquiring Tobias Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers at the trade deadline, the Philadelphia 76ers (36-20) will be looking for their third win in a row when they welcome the Boston Celtics (35-21) to town tonight.
In those two games, the first win would come against the 38-18 Denver Nuggets in 117-110 fashion, while the next win would be a blowout victory: 143-120 over LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers. In their last game against L.A., Joel Embiid was absolutely incredible with 37 points and 14 rebounds.
The Sixers are currently 23-6 at home and will be looking to better that record against a Boston Celtics team who are not only their division rival (that alone is motivation to extend their streak) but come in without their All-Star guard Kyrie Irving (knee) tonight. It should also be pointed out that Philadelphia and Boston are also only separated by one game for the number four spot in the Eastern Conference.
Despite the new toys and growing potency on offense, 76ers’ head coach Brett Brown has focused his attention on the defensive side of the ball. If he can bring the ‘D’ to a level of lethal play like the offense is getting to, the Sixers are going to be extraordinarily deadly come playoff time — and it’s all Brown can think about.
“All I think about is, ‘How do you have a defense that can play in the playoffs?” commented Brown to reporters. “Right now, the pace of the game made the game a little bit difficult. I think our defense right now is a B- or C+. We’re OK. We turn it up, we turn it down. It needs to be better than it is. It’s certainly going to have to be better against the Celtics. But the notion of what’s the end game, it’s always about the playoffs.”
To go along with Embiid’s 34 points on Sunday against the Lakers, Tobias Harris would add 22, while JJ Redick would also put up 21 in the mix. In 61 consecutive games, Redick has scored double figures.
For Boston, it’s been a completely different story for them in their latest production of ‘Back to the Losing.’ After it looked like the Celtics were getting things back on track winning 10 out of 11 games, Boston has been hit hard with two losses in a row to below-average competition — both a result of blowing huge leads.
Against the Lakers, they would build up an 18-point lead just to blow it and would eventually lose due to a buzzer-beater by Rajon Rondo — the score would be 129-128. Against the other Los Angeles team in the Clippers, Boston would blow an even bigger lead: This time a 28-point advantage to eventually fall, 123-112.
On Saturday against the Clippers, Gordon Hayward would score 19 points, while both Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier would tally 16 on the scoreboard. The biggest spotlight, however, was on Kyrie Irving who strained his right knee in the second quarter. On Monday, Boston listed Irving as out against Philadelphia on the injury report.
Hayward put it into perspective.
“I guess it just kind of snowballs on you,” Hayward commented to reporters. “It’s the NBA man, it’s how it works.”
Last season in the 2017-18 campaign, Irving’s knee also took a hit that would keep him sidelined for the remaining 15 games of the regular season — he would also miss the entire playoffs. Fortunately for Boston, it’s not that serious.
Except for Marcus Morris’ comments after the loss against the Clippers.
“I don’t see the joy in the game,” Morris said to reporters.
“I watch all these other teams around the league and guys are up on the bench, they’re jumping on the court, they’re doing all of this other stuff that looks like they’re enjoying their teammates’ success. They’re enjoying everything and they’re playing together and they’re playing to win.”
“And when I look at us, I just see a bunch of individuals.”
Tip-off between the Boston Celtics (35-21) and Philadelphia 76ers (36-20) is set for 8:00 PM ET tonight, and will be nationally televised on TNT. Philadelphia enters as the -6.0-point favorite.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
CHECK THE NUMBERS
Despite just being a game behind the Philadelphia 76ers in the standings, the Boston Celtics are in trouble tonight. They’re on the road, without Kyrie Irving, and only hold one of the four main line statistical categories. In offensive production, they’re -3 at 112.9 PPG, and they also slack in field goal percentage at -1 hitting 46.4% of their shots. On the rebounding end, Boston tallies at -2 grabbing down 45.1 RPG. Their only positive of tonight’s matchup comes on the defensive side: A solid +6 advantage at 106.5 PA.
The Philadelphia 76ers are sitting pretty tonight. They have the homecourt advantage, don’t have to deal with Kyrie Irving and hold three out of the four statistical categories — the odds are completely stacked in their favor. In points-per-game, the Sixers take a +3 edge at a 115.9 PPG average. In field goal percentage, it’s another advantage for Philly at +1 hitting 47.4% of their shots. On the rebounding end, it’s +2 for Philadelphia hitting near the 50-mark at 47.0 RPG. Defensively, they take a -6 hit at 112.2 PA.
Who are we kidding? On paper, it’s pretty much a guaranteed victory for the Philadelphia 76ers tonight. Like previously mentioned, the Sixers have homecourt advantage with the game being at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, Kyrie Irving is out tonight for the Boston Celtics due to a knee injury, and the 76ers have the near full-out statistical advantage.
With that being said, go ahead and take the Sixers for the win tonight — there shouldn’t be any question about that. The only way that Boston can steal a win on the road is if Jayson Tatum has an unbelievable night in scoring, and Al Horford must do the same thing on the glass. Yeah, I don’t see that happening against Joel Embiid. Philadelphia should get a considerably easy win.
As far as the other bets, let’s start out with the spread: The Sixers enter tonight as the -6.5-point favorite. With the massive leverage and fire-power that Philly has, go ahead and take the 76ers to cover — and they should do so with no problem. Philadelphia just has too much advantage. I have them winning by 14. With the O/U at 226, it’s a bit of a risky bet to take with Irving out for Boston tonight, however, look for Philadelphia to put some points up as a result — I took the over at 228, but I wouldn’t blame you for taking the under either. Tough bet with the O/U.