The Philadelphia 76ers try to creep closer to the top of the Eastern Conference standings when they visit their long-time rival, the Boston Celtics, on Saturday night. Philadelphia sits two games behind Boston despite having won the first three meetings between the teams this season.
While the 76ers are healthier than they have been in a good while, they will remain without Josh Richardson for this game. Al Horford is not definitively suiting up for this one after missing the last game with a knee injury.
The 76ers have been tough to beat on their home floor, but now traveling to Boston, they are very vulnerable. It is great for them to have Joel Embiid back, but that may not be enough.
Boston is also dealing with several injuries, as both Rob Williams and Enes Kanter are dealing with hip problems. On the bright side, though, the Celtics do have Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown healthy, back and thriving.
Gordon Hayward is the only player in the NBA this season that is shooting at least 51 percent from the floor, 38 percent from three and 88 percent from the foul line. In his 31 appearances, he is averaging 17 points, six rebounds and three assists, sneakily having a fantastic year despite serving as the fourth option in a talented offense. The Celtics need to think twice before dealing him.
The spread for this primetime showdown has Boston as a three-point favorite. The moneylines are Boston -148 and Philadelphia +126.
Going For The Sweep
Currently sitting in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia cannot be happy. It has been as good as any other team in the league on its home floor this year, but then it plays like one of the bottom five on the road.
The 76ers rank second in points allowed behind only the Orlando Magic, as defense is an area they have really keyed in on. Ben Simmons is averaging practically the same numbers as last season but is playing fantastic of late and showing an ability to take games over.
Tobias Harris is averaging 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game after a slow start to the year, while Matisse Thybulle is a defensive beast.
Embiid being back is truly a game-changer and gives the 76ers their top guy in the lineup again. We cannot underestimate the impact his presence brings to the offense after he was out.
Wanting A Win
With all three of their wings healthy, the Celtics are absolutely dangerous. Kemba Walker was voted in as an All-Star Starter and has a real chance to win his first playoff series this year. It also helps that Daniel Theis is playing his best ball of the year in the absence of the other centers on the roster.
Grant Williams has been playing a lot of minutes as the backup center, similar to what Houston does with PJ Tucker. And it has been working, with his round frame and bulkiness paying off for them. He has also learned how to finally make the NBA three.
The Celtics will likely need Vincent Poirier to snag a few minutes, with the play of the rookie from France important to their success in this one. If they can stifle Embiid, the Celtics may be okay.
Celtics Win A Tight One
This one will come down to the final two minutes, but Boston will prevail.
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