Celtics vs. 76ers Preview: Time to Trust Scorers or Defense?

Joel Embiid. Jayson Tatum. Tobias Harris. Jaylen Brown. Celtics-76ers has plenty of players who can make their mark in the box score, but the defenses have been just as impressive.

Celtics vs. 76ers Odds

Celtics Odds -2.5
76ers Odds +2.5
Over/Under 210.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Boston Celtics will take a trip to the City of Brotherly Love to square off against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night.

After hovering around the .500 mark for most of the season, the Celtics have completely flipped the script and have won eight straight games. As a result, Boston comes into this game as the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and just two games back of Philadelphia for the fifth seed.

Philadelphia has had a great deal of success lately as well, winning seven of its last 10 games and putting together solid performances on a nightly basis.

One of the great NBA rivalries is once again set to be a fantastic matchup. Can the 76ers stop the Boston win streak, or will the Celtics continue to stay hot and steal a win on the road?

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Celtics Leaning on Solid Defense

Boston’s current eight-game win streak has been one the best stretches of basketball put together by any team this season, with the biggest reason for its newfound success being its play on the defensive end of the floor.

The Celtics have been a great defensive team for most of the season, entering this matchup with a Defensive Rating of 105. They’ve consistently made life difficult for their opponents, too, as they are shooting just 43% from the floor and 33.7% from behind the arc.

It’s hard for a team to improve those numbers, especially since Boston ranks in the top five of the NBA in those three categories. But believe it or not, the Celtics have found a way not only to improve in those three categories, but blow them entirely out of the water.

Since their eight-game win streak began, the Celtics have posted a Defensive Rating of 95.8, which is far and away the best rating in the NBA during that span (Miami ranks second with a Defensive Rating of 106.3).

Boston has also seen its opponents’ overall field goal percentage and 3-point percentage drop to 38.9% and 29.7%, respectively, further highlighting how dominant this defense has been.

The Celtics have found a way to get the job done on the offensive end as well, posting a season-high Offensive Rating of 113.7 during their win streak.

That’s a rather significant improvement from their season rating of 109.7, and combining an improved offensive attack with their suffocating defense is going to cause many problems for the rest of the NBA.

Philadelphia Features Big Scorers

The Philadelphia 76ers finally offloaded Ben Simmons after a standoff that lasted several months. As a result, James Harden and Paul Millsap are now members of the 76ers, while Simmons, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond are now in Brooklyn.

However, Harden will not suit up for the 76ers until after the All-Star break due to a hamstring injury, which means we likely won’t see many changes to the 76ers’ play.

Holding Harden out is not necessarily a bad thing for Philadelphia, as it’s won 34 total games this season, is just 2.5 games back of the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and is shifting its focus to getting out of the second round of the playoffs for once.

The loss of Curry could affect some things in the short term, but Philly has had excellent production from elsewhere that can make up for his absence.

By now, everyone knows about Joel Embiid, who is averaging 34.9 points, 12.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game in his last 15 games. However, he’s not the only player in the mix making life difficult for opponents.

Tobias Harris has been excellent of late and has settled in behind Embiid, averaging 20.2 points per game while shooting 55.9% from the floor overall and 55.3% from behind the arc in his last 15 games.

In the same stretch, Tyrese Maxey has put up a 17.5/4.1/5.3 stat line and provides this team with great shooting at the point guard position.

Those three have been responsible for much of the 76ers’ success this season, and I only expect that to continue.

Celtics-76ers Pick

We already know about Boston’s suffocating defense, but Philadelphia has been near the top of the league on that end of the floor of late as well.

In their last 10 games, the Sixers have posted a Defensive Rating of 106.6, the fifth-best mark in the NBA in that span. As a result, the 76ers have held their opponents to 107 points or less in seven of their last 10 games while keeping the opposing team to a field goal percentage of 44.9% and a 3-point percentage of 27.9%.

Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Embiid, Harris, and Maxey are all big names when it comes to scoring ability. However, given the recent trends for both teams, I see the defenses taking control of this game and keeping this game under the total.

Pick: Under 210.5