Over the last six years, the Boston Celtics have been accustomed to playing in games that have decided who will stand at the top of the Atlantic Division, not the bottom. That changes tonight as they play host to the Philadelphia 76ers for the first time this season in a game that features two of the four worst teams in the NBA.
The two teams are ten games behind first place Toronto in the division and the Celtics are percentage points ahead of the Sixers in the division. However, the loser tonight will have the unfortunate honor of being the cellar dwellers of the Atlantic heading into the month of February.
The Sixers shocked the basketball world at the start of the season by going 3-0. They then had a four-game winning streak later in the season before spiraling downwards. They have only won twice in their last 12 games. Their latest fall was a 124-113 loss to the Phoenix Suns.
During this 12-game span, the Sixers have a 3-point percentage of just 28.3 percent, the third-worst in the league. That said, the Celtics have been even more abysmal as they have lost 18 of their last 21 games. They’ve only shot 28.5 percent from downtown during that span.
Philadelphia hopes to use its fast paced offense to control the tempo of the game against the slower-paced Celtics. The Sixers average 102 possessions per 48 minutes, which is the highest rate in the league. They are led by Evan Turner, who leads the team in scoring with 18.5 points per game. Michael Carter-Williams has also been a key contributor, averaging 17.4 points per game and drawing a team-high 4.9 fouls per game. It will be a homecoming for the rookie, who is a Hamilton native.
Up front, the Sixers boast one of the best shooting centers in the game, Spencer Hawes. Hawes has made 41.2 percent of his threes this season, a figure that is significantly better than the team average.
The Celtics come home after being obliterated by the New York Knicks. They have the worst offensive efficiency in the NBA over the last 21 games, averaging just 96.3 points per 100 possessions. Rajon Rondo, who has been the subject of trade rumors, has struggled in his return from injury, shooting just 27.9 percent from the field and averaging 5.7 assists per game.
The Sixers are a good team for the Celtics to get back on track against. They have the fifth-worst defensive efficiency in the league as they allow 106.1 points per 100 possessions. They have also allowed over a 100 points 40 times this season. Along with Rondo, the Celtics will look to Avery Bradley and Jeff Green to create some offense and get the Celtics back on the winning track.
One small surprise for the Celtics has been Chris Johnson, who recently was picked up for another 10-day contract. In five games, Johnson is averaging 10.4 PPG and shooting 50 percent from the field.
These two storied franchises are meeting for the 425th time and the Celtics lead the all-time series, 243-181. The divisional rivals will see each other often throughout the rest of the regular season. After tonight’s game, they will square off in Philadelphia next week before playing each other twice more in April.