The Celtics (36-19) are in steady control of the number 2 seed in the East with only 2 games remaining before the All Star break. On the first night of a back-to-back, the C’s will take on the 76ers (21-34) at home. The Celtics recently finished up a west coast trip, going a solid 3-1. The 6ers also come into Boston relatively hot, winning their last 3 games.
Jahlil Okafor is expected to be in the lineup for the 76ers after missing a game in Charlotte due to his involvement in trade rumors. This comes as good news for the 76ers, who will be without Joel Embiid. The Kansas product has missed the last handful of games after suffering a bone bruise on his knee and a slightly torn meniscus.
Playing alongside Okafor, the 76ers also have Nerlens Noel. The Boston native Noel has been playing some great basketball recently, and will surely bring some fire playing in front of his hometown crowd. Noel will be a free agent at the end of the season, and has been linked in many trade rumors. Boston could be an attractive destination for Noel come July 1st and the start of free agency.
The Celtics will again be without Avery Bradley, who has missed the last month or so with an Achilles injury. Rookie forward Jaylen Brown will also miss tonight with a hip injury suffered during the trip out west. It sucks that Brown got hurt because he was getting good minutes with Bradley sidelined.
Without these two players, look for Gerald Green, Terry Rozier, and James Young to pick up additional minutes. Marcus Smart will also most likely start at the 2 guard along side IT, Jae, Amir, and Al.
Isaiah Thomas has gotten his scoring average up to 29.8 (!!!) points per game. Since missing 4 games early in the season with a groin injury, IT has absolutely been on fire. The proclaimed “King in the Fourth” also continues to average double figures in the final period. The 76ers do not really have any great guards, which should allow Isaiah to go wild tonight scoring as well as distributing the basketball.
One final note, for all those fans who say Al Horford is overrated and not worth the max deal, he does things that are not always seen on the stat sheet. For example, Al clears the lane and boxes out allowing his teammates to get to the rim. Furthermore, Big Al leads the Celtics with an assist to turnover ratio of 3. This puts Horford just outside the top 10 when compared to the rest of the league. Take that for what its worth.