The Sixers Really, Really Need This Win Against the Celtics

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Five wins in a row for your town, your team, your 76ers, who are having an excellent 10-day run.

Among the positives:

  • They beat the Bucks in Milwaukee.
  • They dispatched the Pacers to claim the season series and postseason tiebreaker.
  • Joel Embiid is back and healthy.
  • Jimmy Butler is hitting clutch 4th quarter shots.
  • JJ Redick’s stroke is returning.

Make no mistake; all of that goodwill the club has built up over the past week and change goes straight to hell tonight if they lose again to the Celtics, which would drop them to 0-4 against Boston this season and shrink the three-game lead the Sixers currently have over Brad Stevens’ squad.

They desperately need this win. They need it for their own self confidence, to prove to themselves that they can beat good teams when it matters. They need to get that monkey off their back and ship the exorcised demon up to Boston along with that crappy Dropkick Murphys song, hopefully for good. If they don’t, it’s gonna be another torrent, another social media deluge of “Brett Brown can’t coach,” “Joel Embiid can’t figure out Al Horford,” and “Ben Simmons can’t shoot.” Sixers Twitter goes right back in the crapper with a loss tonight, and Phil Keidel then logs into Crossing Broad Slack chat to rip the coaching staff while Jeff and I waste our time arguing with him.

That’s what’s at stake.

More specifically, here’s what to look for and take into account tonight, after the jump:

Free throws

The Sixers only shot 71% from the foul line in the three-point home loss from five weeks back. They’re a 77.5% free-throw shooting team, and Ben Simmons’ 2-7 mark on February 12th was a real killer. Jimmy Butler missed some key FTs at the end of the game as well, two of three at the 1:14 mark in the fourth quarter.

Tobias Harris

4-14 and 0-6 from three in his first Boston game. It was his 6th-worst shooting performance of the season, both as a Clipper and a Sixer, and he needs to give the Sixers something, anything tonight to get them over this hump.

Tobias has been shooting fine from inside the arc in recent games, but he’s just 6-22 from three going back to the Indiana tilt. Even hitting 2 to 3 three pointers tonight would be a big boost.

Managing mismatches

You know what Boston does. They’ll look for the mismatch and attack it over and over until you adjust. In the last game, you might remember Marcus Smart posting JJ Redick on several second half possessions, which forced the Sixers to scramble and rotate.

Said Brown about that:

There’s a physicality that you have to play with to beat them and you’re reminded of that. They do a really good job of going at mismatches, we could all see the difficulty at times that we had guarding some of the physicality of them trying to post us with different mismatches, those types of things. There’s a physicality that you learn from. They go at mismatches hard, they duck in, they’re physical with that philosophy.

Absolutely. The Sixers need to prevent these types of possessions from happening:

A lot of the postgame comments regarding these types of plays revolved around not necessarily Redick himself, but what teammates could do to help him. Butler and others pointed out that they are more than capable of putting more pressure on the ball and denying those entry passes to Smart.

Brett also said this:

I think you have to find some level of better ball pressure; you have to find some level of better resistance, sort of staggered steps, there’s some technique things that we can do better and I think most importantly that at times you can’t overreact. If tough twos for a while are the palatable shot and, admittedly, you can’t live like that, but periods of the game you can, then we have to be disciplined to do that. To start running around the gym and getting into scramble mode, isn’t in my interest, our interest either.


Embiid vs. Horford

Nobody defends Joel better than Al Horford.

He does a nice job of using low leverage to hold him in positions where he’s at tough scoring angles, and either too close to the rim to turn and face or too far to bully ball his way to the rack.

Gordon Hayward had a good quote on this last month:

Al’s a smart defender, so I think he’s able to use spacing and angles and really kind of knows when to gap him, when to get up to him. He’s also just a tough defender, like taking bumps, able to not get backed all the way down and then still being long enough to contest his jump shots. Embiid’s a monster, so for Al to play like that is really encouraging. We’ve seen him do it in the past too. That was a good job by Al.

Joel has to keep going at Horford. He can’t settle for eight three-pointers, as he did last game:

That’s too much on the perimeter, and even then Joel got Horford to five fouls by the end of the game. If he’s consistently down there in the low post putting pressure on the opposing five, then that turns the tide. You all remember how Joel finally started clicking in the fourth quarter of the last game and even felt like he was robbed on the no-call in the final 90 seconds of play.


Hayward shot 8-11 off the bench in the last game and 6-7 from three to lead the Celtics with 26 points.

He is OUT tonight due to concussion protocol.

Horford is listed as PROBABLE with left knee soreness. He played 33 minutes in Monday’s loss to the Nuggets.

Aron Baynes did not play in the last Philly game, but is available tonight. He’s been very quiet since returning to the lineup on March 3rd but typically plays well against the Sixers.


Simmons only took nine shots in the last game, but hit seven of those, so you’d like to see aggressive Ben out there.

He did, however, log just five assists vs. three turnovers and the Sixers only scored 12 fast break points against a season average of 15.7. Look for Boston to get back to defend Philly’s transition game while sending Horford to the offensive glass, where he inexplicably pulled down four boards last time out, leading to 11 second-chance points. The Sixers have to win in both of those auxiliary phases of the game.

James Ennis

DNP-CD last time out. He’s played well recently and gives the Sixers what they need off the bench against Boston. I’m interested to see how he does tonight in perimeter defense.

The final shot

It should go to Joel Embiid or Jimmy Butler tonight, right?

JJ Redick got off a decent enough look on Christmas night, off a ’12’ pick and roll, but I think with the way Butler and Embiid have been playing lately, I’d go with them over this staple play call:

Imagine if that had gone in?

We wouldn’t be talking about half the things we talk about.

Here’s what Embiid said on Christmas night about not getting enough of the ball late in the game:

Just 17 shots in that game, vs. 22 in Philly and 21 on opening night. Gotta feed Embiid tonight.

The benches

Christmas night in Boston:

  • Boston bench – 26 points
  • Sixers bench – 13 points

February 12th in Philly:

  • Boston bench – 32 points
  • Sixers bench – 22 points

Opening night in Boston:

  • Boston bench – 45 points
  • Sixers bench – 26 points

They need more beyond the starting group, no question about it.

That’s pretty much it for my observations. We’ll see if Brett says anything interesting pregame.

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16 Responses

  1. And the analysis just gets more and more “in-depth”

    They “really really” need this win, eh “expert”?

    My goodness. I would have never guessed.

  2. Holy fuck we actually agree about a song? I get down with old school DKM but everything from the last ~15 years (especially shipping up to boston) is trash.

    Oh and lets fuckin GO SIXERS!!!

    1. If you want to make your points and sentences more concise, try(I realize the word is an integral part of your vocabulary) to avoid using the “f” word. If you can’t buy a thesaurus for a substitute word.

  3. This is NOT a must win game. Its just another game. Its a home game so you’d like to win. I would actually like to thoroughly beat them like we did Milwaukee where it never seemed like they had a chance.

    Someone needs to punish Kyrie in the paint. Let’s take this back to the 80s.

    I don’t think based on the way they’ve been playing people will start blaming Brett Brown. The talent is out there on the court and they are palying great as of late. This is a good test for THE PLAYERS due to the defense of Boston.

    Horford’s been injured. I was watching some of JoJo vs Boston playoff series from last year. He was coming off the face injury. At this point in the season, JoJo is a much more dominant player. Last year he was getting bullied…this year Tobias and Jimmy give them a next level toughness on the court.

    I really want to see how Boban and Baynes battle. I hope Boban gets him in foul trouble.

    Ben’s been playing really really well off the handoff fakes. And Jimmy’s got the ship in the 4th quarter.

    Its not BB at this point the team is playing well. Now its time for JoJo and Ben to mature enough to the point where they have the confidence to dominate lesser talent.

    Last year JoJo made a lot of bad moves. Turnovers. Forcing shots. No idea how to get out of double teams. He needs to be Shaq. Dominate in spots but also always find the open man in Jimmy JJ or Butler.

    TJ’s contributions vs Rozier go understated. He will be needed again to shut down both Kyrie and Rozier. Really wish they had Beverly off the bench as well. Or Lou Williams to make Kyrie and Rozier have to work to guard someone.

    Anyway…its gonna come down to JoJo and whether he has matured and is able to dominate Boston. That is the main story. It will happen and this roster can definitely help JoJo…but its not about Brett Brown…its about JoJo. Hofrod is injured and only getting older. Time for JoJo with another season under his belt and in his prime at 25….to dominate.

    From his tape last year’s playoffs vs Boston and wearing the mask to today….this season he’s a far better player.

  4. First, these lightweight posters who never contribute anything but juvenile insults are really insulting to the rest who want to make a point. But to make mine, which might also be light, the Sixers will be pressed to win tonight for several reasons. One, Smart generally takes Ben out if the game: two, it’s an away game that Boston desperately needs, and three It’s a back-to-back, after a tough game.

  5. Refs helped Philly tonight and they still almost lost. They shot over 43 FTAs to Boston ‘s 16, the NBA must have wanted Philly to win one prior to the playoffs to drub up some drama

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