WHO: Celtics (25-25) vs. 76ers (34-16)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: TD Garden
RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
G: Kemba Walker
G: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Robert Williams III
G: Ben Simmons
G: Seth Curry
SF: Danny Green
PF: Tobias Harris
C: Joel Embiid
The Boston Celtics (25-25, 24-26 ATS) welcome MVP candidate Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers (34-16, 27-21-2 ATS) to TD Garden for the first and only time this season a long way from their two-game series in Philadelphia in January.
Jayson Tatum is available now after missing both games in COVID protocol, but Boston will be without Evan Fournier (COVID protocol) who exited the team for the second time in consecutive weeks since arriving at the trade deadline. Tristan Thompson (COVID protocol) is out too. Semi Ojeleye (side) will return after missing five games.
Tyrese Maxey (COVID protocol) is probable for Philadelphia, while deadline addition George Hill (finger) continues to progress slowly after the Sixers acquired him from the Thunder two weeks ago.
According to the online sports book Betonline.ag, the 76ers are 2.0 road favorites.
- Celtics vs. 76ers spread: 76ers -2
- Celtics vs. 76ers over-under: 221.5 points
- Celtics vs. 76ers money line: Celtics -139, 76ers +119
It’s hard to believe that seven months ago the Celtics swept the 76ers in the NBA Playoffs, Embiid struggled to produce in the fourth quarter of each game while Boston appeared miles ahead of Philly toward their goal of building a championship. The teams have reversed roles this year, with Sixers ranking alongside the Nets and Bucks as east favorites, +500 per Betonline.ag, with Embiid (+650) third in MVP odds.
The Celtics remain fifth in the east odds, but with Fournier entering COVID protocol again today and Philadelphia mashing Boston in a two-game series early this season, a potential series between these teams does not appear to be close for now. Embiid is averaging 29.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting 40% from three and 82% from the line in what could mark the most complete season for a big man in NBA history. Robert Williams III, Boston’s new starting center, committed five fouls in 19 minutes in the preseason matchup against Embiid’s Sixers.
Embiid, however, is only two games removed from a 10-game absence due to a knee injury. He shot 6-of-14, missed all four threes and committed four turnovers in his return on Saturday.
Tatum missed the two-game regular season series and Kemba Walker was absent for the second via his knee recovery program. That’ll place additional pressure on Philadelphia’s defense, since the 76ers’ best personnel on the wings will be fixated on Jaylen Brown and Tatum. Seth Curry or Danny Green will likely guard Walker and Philly’s drop defense has been a favorite of Walker’s to attack in his Boston tenure. Williams will also challenge Embiid on offense with verticality.
The bigger problem rests on Boston’s defense. Williams should be able to ground himself against Embiid post-ups with help, but Embiid faces up from every level of the court and attacks on the dribble. With Williams averaging 2.8 fouls per game as starter, Embiid could prove a devastating matchup with nearly 12 free throws per game. Fournier’s absence hurts Boston’s ability to go small.
Boston has advantages it can exploit here, but its propensity to foul and defensive inconsistencies, not to mention wing and big man depth issues stand to prevent them from winning this game. Brown, Walker and Tatum would need to muster epic performances.
Brown exploited Simmons in the two-game series earlier this season. Simmons would project to take the Tatum assignment this time, where he’s found more success this year. Tatum’s isolation attack would play into what Philadelphia wants to challenge defensively, along with a difficulty reaching to the rim. If Williams is in foul trouble and Boston is forced to rely on spot-up shooting, it could be an ugly night at TD Garden.
Philadelphia 115, Boston 111 (24–19, 17-23 ATS)