One Last Regular Season Battle With Boston
The 76ers (46-25) have one last chance to defeat the Boston Celtics (43-28) in the regular season – and it couldn’t come at a better time – as opportunity knocks amid the team’s longest winning streak of the year.
In what could be a potential playoff matchup, Wednesday’s meeting feels bigger than a single game.
Boston won the first three clashes – at TD Garden on opening day, again at home (in overtime) on Christmas Day, and then at The Center Feb. 12 without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving.
Between the results this season, and from the 2018 postseason, it’s safe the say the Sixers are hungry to best their rival.
“We can’t wait,” Brett Brown said Tuesday, following the Sixers’ hard-fought 118-114 win in Charlotte.
Joel Embiid is expected to rejoin the Sixers (he rested against the Hornets) in what could be a perfect storm. The Sixers have won five in a row.
“He’s a terrific player,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of Embiid at Wednesday’s shootaround. “He’s one of the best players in the NBA and I think we all respect that.”
Embiid scored 23 points and grabbed 14 boards in the Sixers’ most recent showdown with the Celtics, which came down to the final seconds. Despite double-figure performances from all five starters, the Sixers fell just short, 112-109.
The Sixers will be on the latter end of a back-to-back Wednesday, after another nail biter against Charlotte.
JJ Redick had a career night, scoring 27 points off seven 3-pointers, adding a career-high 10 rebounds and dishing out eight assists.
Jimmy Butler (23 pts, 4 reb, 9 ast) and James Ennis III (14 pts, 4 reb) came up huge late in the fourth, each hitting 3-pointers to ultimately capture the W.
Now, the turnaround for a crucial pairing will come quickly. The Sixers are 3.0 games in front of fifth-place Boston for third in the Eastern Conference standings.
“We’re excited,” said Brown. “It’s starting to get closer [to the end of the season]. It’s great to play the Milwaukees and the Boston Celtics. We look forward to going back to Philadelphia and playing the Boston Celtics with Joel Embiid.”
The Celtics seem to have found their footing late in the season after a turbulent first few months. The team has won five of their last seven games, including a decisive 128-95 win over the Golden State Warriors on Mar. 5. The Celtics on Wednesday will be without Gordon Hayward (concussion). Hayward scored 26 points off the bench during his team’s last visit to The Center.
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