NBA Game Of The Week: Sixers v Celtics – Stats, Odds, Insights, & Predictions
Our upcoming NBA game of the week is a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.
BOSTON CELTICS (35-21) $3.00 @ PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (36-20) $1.41
AEDT: 12:00pm, Wednesday, 13 February
This game may be the most clear-cut decision for GOTW in Sporting Base history.
If you were asked the question: what is the most interesting rivalry in the NBA? You’d probably answer: the Celtics and Sixers. In the Western Conference, the Warriors exist in a vacuum. Nobody, at this point, is a worthy adversary for the Dubs. Last season we had the Houston Rockets. But they are not the same team that took the Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference Finals.
And in the Eastern Conference, LeBron James left a gaping hole. Before he departed Cleveland for the Lakers this season, every team in the East had one goal: take down the King. None of them succeeded, and in such an environment, a rivalry between two organisations can hardly coagulate.
But somehow, last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals series between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers birthed something new.
The Celtics won that series in such a way that they now hold a psychological edge over the Sixers. In many ways, the Sixers were ‘found out’. Brad Stevens severely exploited Ben Simmons’ lack of shooting range. And the Celtics suffocating defence showed just how desperately the Sixers need a closer. Joel Embiid can’t be the only option at the end of games, especially against a team as capable of double-teaming and switching as the Boston Celtics.
Since then the Sixers have made moves. A few months ago they traded for Jimmy Butler, which seemed to be a direct response to the humiliation the Celtics dealt them. Butler is a closer: he can create shots for himself and work within the pick and roll at the end of games. He also brings grit to a team that shrunk against a more savvy Boston outfit.
The Sixers also acquired Tobias Harris at the trade deadline. In two games with the team, he’s averaging 18.0PPG, 57.7%FG, 62.5%3PT. Two games is a minuscule sample size, but one would expect Harris to need more time before posting such efficient scoring numbers. So far, he fits seamlessly in the Sixers offence, and as an efficient stretch four who doesn’t need the ball in high volumes to make an impact, he is a sizeable upgrade over Dario Saric, the stretch four the Sixers had in their playoff series loss to the Celtics.
The last time these teams played was Christmas Day, and the intensity from the Conference Finals is still there. The game went to OT with the Celtics getting the win.
The Sixers are a different team now though, and everyone will be waiting to see if Brad Stevens can gameplan for Harris.
The Celtics have also come alive lately, winning 10 of their last 13 games. Before their last two game – bizarre losses against the Lakers and Clippers – the Celtics had won 10 of their last 11, with their only loss being against the juggernaut known as the Golden State Warriors. They also (comfortably) hold the third best net rating in the league (nba.com).
This all adds up to a great game of basketball. But if there is one drawback, it’s that Kyrie Irving will be out injured. That gives the Sixers an advantage, but remember that when the Celtics beat the Sixers in the Conference Semi’s, it was without Kyrie.
Irving’s absence puts pressure on Jayson Tatum for two reasons: 1) he was the one who led the team during last year’s playoffs when Kyrie was out, and has struggled to rekindle the form he had during that run, and 2) Jimmy Butler will probably guard him with Kyrie not on the floor. Butler will certainly guard Tatum in the fourth quarter in iso situations. A clash of characters may take place, making this matchup even more interesting: Butler is a dogged character while Tatum is quite laid-back. This matchup will probably decide the game if it stays close till the end.
|Jayson Tatum||Jimmy Butler (with Sixers)|
As mentioned, our key matchup in this game is Tatum v Butler. They have both had up-and-down seasons, but on their day, can be one-man offences.
The Sixers should win this one at home, coming off two impressive wins. The Celtics are still a boogeyman for the Sixers, and with the history of these teams over the last two seasons, nothing is a surety. The Celtics are also capable of beating the top teams in the East: they are 5-2 against the Bucks, Raptors, and Sixers this season.
These teams have a habit of keeping it close, so we expect the Celtics to cover (+5.5) @ $1.92