at Boston Celtics (35-21) at Philadelphia 76ers (36-20)
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #57, Road Game #27
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 97.5 The Fanatic
Wells Fargo Center Probable Starting Matchups Point Guard
Terry Rozier vs Ben Simmons
Marcus Smart vs JJ Redick Small Forward
Jayson Tatum vs Jimmy ButlerPoward Forward
Marcus Morris vs Tobias Harris Center
Al Horford vs Joel Embiid Celtics Reserves
Kyrie Irving (knee) out
Aron Baynes (hand) out
Two Way Players
Brad StevensSixers Reserves
Zhaire Smith (foot) out
Justin Patton (foot) out
Two Way Players
Coming off of brutal losses to both Los Angeles teams, the Celtics head out on the road to face the division rival Philadelphia 76ers, who are coming off a 22 point win over one of those LA teams. While the Celtics stood pat at the trade deadline, the Sixers upgraded considerably by adding Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic.
All 5 starters for the Sixers are averaging 17 or more points per game. Even Ben Simmons who refuses to shoot 3's is a threat to score and is averaging close to a triple double with 16.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.0 assists. Even 5th option, JJ Redick is averaging 19.3 points per game and shooting 39% from beyond the arc. The Celtics may have a depth advantage, but only if the second unit plays well.
This is the third meeting between these two teams this season. They met at the Garden in the season opener where the Celtics won 105-87, giving Celtics fans visions of dominating the league for the entire season. Things haven't exactly worked out that way, however. The Celtics won 121-114 on Christmas Day, also at the TD Garden. They will meet once more in Philadelphia on March 20. A win in this game will give the Celtics a tie for 4th place as well as the tie breaker between them for the season.
The Celtics are dealing with some very public inner turmoil. After blowing big leads and losing 2 games they should have won, Marcus Morris revealed that the Celtics are just individuals and not meshing as a team. He also said that playing has not been fun for a long time. Yet another airing of grievances to the media. Things are not going well in Celticsland.
However, it was reported that the Celtics talked out Morris' comments and are moving past them. Hopefully this is true and they can move past this and develop better chemistry on the court as well as off of it. The Celtics must somehow clear the air and build some kind of cohesion and very soon, or they could be in trouble.
They have dropped from 3rd back into 5th place in the East. They are 1 game behind Philadelphia and 2 games behind Indiana, who lost their star player for the rest of the season. They are also 6.5 games behind first place Milwaukee, who also improved at the trade deadline. Philadelphia is in 4th place, 1 game ahead of Boston and 1 game behind Indiana for 3rd. The Celtics are 13-13 on the road while the Sixers are 23-6 at home. The Sixers have won their last 5 games while the Celtics have lost 2.
Kyrie Irving left Saturday's game with a sprained knee. It isn't supposed to be a serious injury and he is listed as day to day but will not travel with the team for this game. It's not clear if he will play vs Detroit on Wednesday. Aron Baynes remains out with the foot injury. The Sixers are mostly healthy with Zhaire Smith (foot) and Justin Patton (foot) listed as out.
With Kyrie out, Terry Rozier will likely start at the point. However, Brad Stevens has hinted at possible lineup changes. I'm not sure if lineup changes can fix the cohesion problems the Celtics are having, but it may change the on court dynamics, especially in the late second and third quarters when they have seemed to fade in recent games. Key Matchups
Al Horford vs Joel Embiid
Embiid is a big problem for every team to guard. He is averaging 27.2 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.0 blocks. This is where the Celtics will really miss Aron Baynes, who has the size and strength to challenge him. Robert Williams and Daniel Theis may see more time trying to slow Embiid down.
Marcus Morris vs Tobias Harris
Tobias Harris has just joined the team, but seems to fit in seamlessly so far. He is averaging 20.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He is also shooting 43.7% from beyond the arc. He makes the Sixers much tougher and gives them another scorer and rebounder that will make them tough to guard. Honorable Mention
Jayson Tatum vs Jimmy Butler
Who would have thought that Jimmy Butler would end up being their third toughest matchup? However, as we have seen before, if not defended well, Butler can have a big game and bury opponents. Butler is averaging 19.5 points, 5.0 rebounds 3.9 assists and 2.1 steals. Tatum has to play tough defense as well as play smart offense on the other end. Keys to the GameDefense
- The old saying that Defense wins Championships is very true. This is one area where the Celtics might have a slight advantage. The Celtics are 5th with a defensive rating of 105.5 where the Sixers are 11th with a defensive rating of 108.3. However, the Celtics have started off the last few games with great defense and then seemed to forget how to play any defense in the second and third quarters. They have to play tough team defense for 48 minutes if they want to beat the Sixers, who are 3rd in the league in scoring. Be Aggressive
- The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team and go after all the loose balls, and aggressively go after rebounds, and be aggressive on defense. They also have to be aggressive in taking the ball into the paint. The more aggressive team will usually get the benefit of the whistles. The Celtics need to be the hardest working and toughest team on the court. We know that the Sixers will be aggressive and play hard with the crowd behind them and the Celtics have to match their intensity. They can't depend on talent alone because the Sixers are just as talented. They have to win with heart and hustle. Rebound
- The Celtics need to crash the boards as they can't score without the ball and rebounding will give them extra possessions. On the other hand, if they allow the Sixers to out-rebound them, they will make them pay as they are 9th in the league with 13.8 second chance points per game. Play Hard 48 Minutes
- The Celtics either start off slowly and then have to try to catch up or else they start off strong and build a big lead and then let up and allow the other team to beat them. They can't afford a slow start on the road against a high scoring team like the Sixers. And, if they manage to start strong once again and build a lead, they must play hard for all 48 minutes and not let up or they will lose their third game in a row. Play Team Ball
- The Celtics need to move the ball. They play best when they share the ball and find the open man. When they try to do too much individually, it rarely works out well. They also have to stay focused and take their time and not rush their shots or go away from the game plan. No Hero Ball!!! Play as a team on both ends of the court. X-Factors Road Game
- The Sixers are a very good home team with a 23-6 record at home. The Celtics are just 13-13 on the road and have not played well on the road for the most part. The Celtics are 1-11 in their last 12 road games without Kyrie Irving. However, that one win was against the Sixers in the playoffs last season. The Celtics have to stay focused and not let the hostile crowd and the distractions of the road keep them from playing their game. Self Awareness
- Marcus Morris put a spotlight on some of the problems that have kept the Celtics from reaching the potential that everyone expected from them this season. Can Brad Stevens find a way to bring the fun back to playing as a group? Can the players sacrifice their own stats and egos to pull together and play for the good of the team? Can they avoid a 2nd and 3rd quarter let down? How they respond to being called out by their teammate (again) will tell us a lot about these players and their coach.