12/12 Game Preview: 76ers at Celtics
The Boston Celtics will look to improve to 11-0 at home when they face the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night.
Boston is one of three NBA teams still undefeated at home, a list that includes the 76ers (13-0), who are 5-7 on the road, however. The Miami Heat are 11-0 at home.
Philadelphia hosted the Celtics in both teams' season opener on Oct. 23, with the Sixers winning 107-93.
In that game, point guard Kemba Walker was held to 12 points on 4-for-18 shooting in his Boston debut. Walker has turned things around since then, and he is coming off a season-high, 44-point outing in a 122-117 road loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.
"He gave us a chance to be in the game," coach Brad Stevens said. "Kemba really showed up and played great."
Walker had a chance to tie the score at 120 with a 3-point try with 4.2 seconds remaining, but instead he airballed it, and Boston's four-game winning streak ended. The Celtics fell for just the second time in their past eight games.
Boston blew a 10-point lead over Indiana in the fourth quarter, during which Gordon Hayward exited following a palm to the nose by the Pacers' Doug McDermott.
"Just got hit in the nose and immediately couldn't really see much," said Hayward, who said he went through concussion testing and would be re-evaluated Thursday morning before his availability for the Philadelphia game is determined. "Felt pretty dizzy."
Hayward returned Monday from a month-long absence following surgery to repair a fracture in his left hand. Meanwhile, Boston has played its past two games without guard and team leader Marcus Smart, who is dealing with an eye infection and is day-to-day.
The 76ers enter having won three straight and seven of eight. Philadelphia was last on the floor Tuesday, when it closed out a 97-92 triumph over the visiting Denver Nuggets on two Joel Embiid free throws with 15.3 seconds remaining.
Embiid, who led the team with 22 points, reveled in the moment after he ended the third quarter with an acrobatic basket, taking to center court to shimmy and raise his arms up to the cheering crowd. Such scenes were commonplace early in his career, but the fourth-year big man has said he has tried to cut down on it this season as a sign of maturity.
"When I'm having fun, I dominate," he said. "This year, I don't know, I can probably count on one hand how many times I've done it. ...
"I need to start doing it again, because that's how I'm gonna dominate."
Another Philadelphia big man, Al Horford, should elicit a reaction from the crowd in Boston on Thursday as he returns for the first time since his three seasons with the Celtics. Horford is expected to receive a warm welcome after leading the club to the Eastern Conference finals twice during his tenure.
"It'll be fun," 76ers guard Ben Simmons said. "I love playing in Boston, and Al is returning. It's going to be loud in there, but I'm looking forward to it."