Christmas Hoops: Sixers Battle Celtics in Boston
Celtics fans far and wide were giddy with the recent turnaround of Boston’s fortunes after they reeled off eight-straight, only to see the streak we had all anticipated come to an abrupt halt in Detroit. Despite the fact that the Green had just beaten up a bunch of tomato cans, all eight teams with sub .500 records, it was certainly a welcome reprieve from Boston’s unanticipated struggles up to that point. The loss to the Pistons was no big deal because eventually, every team loses and the Celts looked like they were finally resembling the tour de force of last season when they took the LeBron-led Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals without the services of their two top stars, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. However, all that good juju turned sour when they were stunned by the worst team in basketball, the Phoenix Suns, on Wednesday night. Some of the best online sportsbooks like Bookmaker were dealing the Shamrocks as high as 11 ½ point home favorites over the hapless Suns. After the Celtics take on Milwaukee on Friday night, the Philadelphia 76ers are next up on the slate. After a spate of games against the weak sisters of the league, this is quite the one-two punch for the Green and they will be doing it without the services of center Aron Baynes, who fractured a bone in his left hand early in the Sun’s game. Unfortunately, Baynes is out indefinitely and the front office needs to figure out a way to get a legitimate big in a hurry. They will certainly need it against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers. The first and only time these teams met this season was in the opener when Boston outscored the Sixers in all but the first quarter of play. It was an uplifting victory and the sportsbooks were dealing Boston as a 4 ½ point home favorites and covered the number with ease. Jayson Tatum and Joel Embiid led all scorers that night with 23 while Ben Simmons dominated the glass with 15 rebounds. Boston shot an unremarkable 43 percent from the floor but it was better than the 39 percent delivered by the Sixers. Boston has won 15 of their last 17 regular-season meetings with Philadelphia but the Sixers are on the championship trajectory that Boston fans had expected of the Celtics. Of course, the C’s are not floundering in the basement of the East with the likes of Atlanta, Chicago, and Cleveland but they have only hit their stride once this season and it happened to be during the friendliest part of their schedule. Well folks, friendly just turned deadly because the Bucks, 76ers, Rockets, and Spurs are on the horizon. Boston will have to get more offensively engaged, as they are currently in the middle of the pack in points scored, averaging 111.2, yet defensively they are getting the job done as the fourth-ranked team in the league, trailing only Indiana, Memphis, and Denver. On the flip side, the 76ers are struggling to stop their opponents from scoring, ranked 22nd in that department, but are seventh in scoring and tied for fifth in rebounding. There’s an easy argument to be made that Joel Embiid is the best player in the Eastern Conference and the deal the Sixers swung for All-Star Jimmy Butler only galvanized their resolve to contend now, and not later, for a championship title. This game is important for Philly because they can avenge their earlier season loss and know that their final two games against the Celtics in this four-game regular season series will be held in the City of Brotherly Love. Let’s hope that the Green Machine duplicates their efforts from October 16th and notches a win over a fierce conference rival.