Watch It! - Celtics at 76ers
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers meet at 7 p.m. tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.
Short at the 2
Avery Bradley and Evan Turner better have slept well Sunday night. They’re going to need all the energy they can find tonight.
Boston will enter tonight’s game without the services of Marcus Thornton (strained left calf), Marcus Smart (strained left Achilles) and even James Young (right shoulder injury). That leaves Bradley and Turner as the only available guys on the roster who have logged minutes at the shooting guard position this season.
Bradley should be ready for extended minutes tonight. He hasn’t played in a game since Wednesday, as he came down with a stomach virus late in the week. Bradley has since recovered and made it sound on Sunday as if he’s back to full strength.
Turner isn’t quite as rested, but he should also be primed for a solid performance. He started in place of Bradley Friday night and scored 13 points in 36 minutes of action. That performance should give him some rhythm heading into tonight’s game.
Bounce-Back for Sully?
There’s no sugarcoating the fact that Jared Sullinger struggled last week. Over three games, he totaled just 10 points and 16 rebounds. Sullinger has been known to surpass those numbers in a single game. There’s no reason why he should be totaling those numbers over three games.
Sullinger knows as well as anyone that he’s in the midst of a funk. He’s doing everything he can to get out of it. As was written Sunday afternoon, the big man went back to the gym Friday night following his zero-point, four-rebound performance against New York. He was at the Celtics practice facility until 2 a.m. working on his game.
One would hope that such an effort will pay off for Sullinger. He’s done everything he can to snap out of his funk. Let’s hope that shows Monday night.
A Conley Away from a Win
Philadelphia nearly took down the second-best team in the league Saturday night. The 76ers took the Memphis Grizzlies to overtime and lost only because Mike Conley took over the game, according to Brad Stevens.
“They played great [Saturday] night,” said Stevens. “That was a heartbreaker for them. It was huge, huge, huge plays by Mike Conley throughout the whole night.”
Had Conley not made those plays, Philly would be sitting with a 3-3 record over its last six games. Its overall record isn’t quite indicative of how it’s playing at the moment.
Top Rebounding Guards
Monday’s contest will feature a matchup between the NBA’s top two rebounding guards. Each team’s point guard is very adept at crashing the glass.
Rajon Rondo enters the contest leading all guards in rebounding with an average of 7.6 a night. He is second on the Celtics in rebounding average, trailing only Sullinger’s 8.3 per game. Rondo’s rebounding is very important to the Celtics because it allows him to jumpstart transition plays while his big men run free.
Michael Carter-Williams is nipping at Rondo’s heels in this department. Carter-Williams, who stands at 6-foot-6, leads Philadelphia in rebounding average with 7.4 a game. Philadelphia, which ranks 25th in the NBA in rebounding, does not have another player on the roster who’s grabbing more than 6.4 boards a night.
The Celtics already came to Philadelphia and logged a victory on Nov. 19. This current Sixers team, however, is playing a bit different than the one Boston saw that night.
“They’re playing A Luc Mbah a Moute at the 4,” Stevens explained. “They’re almost never playing (Nerlens) Noel and (Henry) Sims together, which makes them a problem on both ends of the court.”
In other words, Philadelphia is playing small ball. With that in mind, expect to see Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace log some minutes at power forward tonight. They give the Celtics the ability to handle a game that goes small.