1/6 Game Preview: 76ers at Celtics

BOSTON -- Having dealt with their first off-court issue of the season, the Celtics were preparing to deal with Philadelphia big man Joel Embiid on the court when the teams meet at TD Garden Friday night.

Embiid, whose career has been stalled by physical woes, has been on fire lately, but missed Thursday's practice with a flu bug. He joins teammate Robert Covington (back contusion) as questionable for the game.

The Sixers (9-24, one game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets in the battle for the worst record in the league) have won two straight for the third time this season and seek their first three-game winning streak Friday.

Embiid, who did travel with the team to Boston, has averaged 24 points, seven rebounds, 2.5 blocked shots and four assists in the two games but has scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds per game in his last six games.

The Celtics have a slight roster issue as well, as backup center Tyler Zeller missed Tuesday night's win over the Utah Jazz with a sinus infection, and he still wasn't at practice Thursday.

But the news out of the Celtics centered on Jae Crowder, who went on a Twitter rant after Tuesday's game because the home crowd was cheering for Utah's Gordon Hayward, a potential free agent this summer.

The pair matched up Tuesday and Crowder got the better of it in a Celtics win.

Crowder deleted most of what he said, which included, in caps, "I HEARD THE CHEERING 1/8FOR HAYWARD 3/8 BEFORE THE GAME. I DIDN'T LIKE IT THAT AT ALL. I THINK IT WAS A SIGN OF DISREPECT TO ME FROM THE FANS. THAT SPARKED A LITTLE FIRE IN ME."

Thursday, he apologized for his words, but again said he didn't like the fans cheering for prospective targets, like Hayward and, last year, Kevin Durant.

"I didn't like that, either," he said. "I just remember when I got here a couple years ago and we were however many games under .500, the fans cheered for us. Not one time did they cheer for another player when they came into town. Things have changed since then, I'm aware of that.

"That's never happened in an arena that I've been in. I've never been on the road and got cheered for, or even one of my teammates get cheered for by the opposing team. It's just something different for me that really set me off. I don't like when they cheer for DeMarcus Cousins. I don't like when they cheer for Kevin Durant. I don't think you should do that. That's all I was saying."

Club president Danny Ainge had an interesting take on the event, and quipped Wednesday, "If I can get the crowd to cheer the starting small forwards every game, Jae would play his best. I like that. Whatever it takes to get him motivated to play, I'm OK with. But I agree with (coach Brad Stevens). I'm not worried about Jae Crowder at all."

Said Crowder: "Obviously, I don't want to leave Boston. Obviously, I love it here. Obviously, the fans have treated me great. No doubt about that."

The Celtics (21-14) have won eight of their last 10 games and have won three in a row at home for the first time this season. Friday marks the start of a rarity - back-to-back home game. Boston hosts the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday night.

Isaiah Thomas scored 37 points and added seven assists in the Celtics' 107-106 win at Philadelphia Dec. 3 -- Embiid sat out that game to rest.

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