The Philadelphia 76ers (33-31) have a chance to redeem themselves tonight, not only by winning, but by winning against the Boston Celtics (46-16).
Both Philadelphia and Boston are coming off bad losses. Boston is coming off a 108-103 loss to the Clippers, in which they trailed by as many as 23 points. And we all know how the Sixers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder: Andre Iguodala has the chance to seal the win and commits an offensive foul, and Kevin Durant sends the game to overtime on a miraculous three-point shot. And that is why Kevin Durant is Kevin Durant, and Andre Iguodala is simply not.
Tonight's game is not necessarily a must-win for either team, though a win for the Sixers could re-spark the fire that has had this team 30-18 (16-6 since Jan. 21) since their dismal 3-13 start.
Boston leads the season series 2-0, with both previous matchups coming in December. Philadelphia put up a tough fight in both games, losing only marginally in each. The 76ers went 8-7 in the month of December, and the effects of their woeful start hadn't fully worn off. As of late, Philadelphia has started meshing, and Doug Collins has instilled in these players what it means to win. It is still worrisome though that Sixers just can't seem to find a way to win in close games, going only 5-13 in games decided by five points or fewer.
Can the Philadelphia 76ers Beat the Boston Celtics?
Who wins tonight's game?
Philadelphia has had some big wins this season over San Antonio, New York, Orlando and Denver (before the Carmelo trade). But their only three losses in their last 10 home games came against Orlando Dallas, and Oklahoma City—three of the league's top eight teams.
Since dropping the first two games to Boston, the Philadelphia 76ers have played some great basketball. Finally putting that 3-13 start behind them, Philadelphia looks to come out and battle tough for a win tonight. If the Sixers win, they still have a chance to split the season series which at the start of the season would have seemed remarkable, but now might not seem that crazy to accomplish.
The Sixers' loss to the Thunder was a heartbreaker, but the Celtics' loss to the Clippers was embarrassing.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers canceled the team's Thursday practice, giving his squad some extra rest, both physically and mentally. In Wednesday's loss against the Clippers, the Celtics came out in the first quarter looking torpid. They were slow, careless and lethargic, and went into the second quarter down 13 points. They won't do that again, not against the 76ers, a team they know they can beat.
The 76ers will come out of the gate firing too. They have it in their minds that thy can win big games because they have. But to beat the Celtics, the 76ers will need to be extra careful with the ball, not commit turnovers or commit fouls in key moments of the game, and try not to blow any leads they may have.
Which Philadelphia Player Needs a Big Game?
In order to beat the Celtics, Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala and Jodie Meeks will all have to have big games. Holiday, Iguodala and Meeks combined for 53 of the teams 105 points against the Thunder Wednesday. Lou Williams also contributed 22 points off the bench. The 76ers' bench players have done an outstanding job scoring big points and will need to continue to do so in order to win tonight.
Evan Turner had maybe his least productive game against Oklahoma City after having 20 points and seven rebounds against the Golden State Warriors and 10 points and four assists against the Indiana Pacers. Golden State and Indiana are nowhere near as talented as the Boston Celtics, but I think Evan Turner can turn it up a notch tonight and help his team beat the Celtics.
Who You Got?
If the previous two meetings have shown anything, it's that the Sixers have fought hard against the Celtics. What is especially important to note is that the two meetings came in December, when Philadelphia was still learning to be a team and still learning to win.
Boston is looking to make up for their embarrassing loss against the Clippers. Philadelphia is looking to make up for their heartbreaker against the Thunder. With the way the Sixers have been playing as of late, it would not be surprising for the Sixers to win this game. But Boston isn't going to come out lethargic this time, they've learned their lesson from the Clippers. The game is going to be close, but hopefully not too close, otherwise it may be another unnerving loss for the Sixers.
Prediction: This game will be close. But let's set that 5-13 in games decided by five points or fewer aside. The Sixers win this one 98-96.