After acquiring Tobias Harris and several key bench components, the Philadelphia 76ers have arguably the best starting five in the Eastern Conference. They are coming off a 143-120 win over the LA Lakers and now are legitimate contenders for the Eastern Conference title. At 36-20 and 23-6 at home, they take on the Boston Celtics, who are right on their heels at 35-21 and 13-13 on the road. Boston won the first two meetings this season between the teams on home court.
Taking a closer look at the teams in several major categories, the 76ers are third in scoring, while the Celtics are 12th. On the flip side, the Celtics are much better defensively, ranked fifth in fewest points allowed compared to 21st. They also take care of the ball much better, ranked sixth in turnovers. The 76ers generally play excellent ball unless they turn the ball over, which they are prone to do, ranked 27th. They make up for some of that by generally outrebounding opponents, while the Celtics are mediocre in that department.
Something to watch in this one is the status of Kryrie Irving. Leading the Celtics at 23.6 points and 6.9 assists per game, he is day-to-day with a right knee strain. The Celtics have several players that can pick up the slack in his absence, including the team's second leading scorer Jayson Tatum (16.4 points, 6.3 rebounds) and Marcus Morris (14.6 points, six rebounds). Veteran center Al Horford leads the team in rebounding at 6.6 per game and supplies a solid 12 points per contest. Gordon Hayward has had a successful return from last year's injury, dropping 10.6 per game.
The 76ers are now dominant offensively and can win in a shootout against most teams. The starting five is averaging nearly 100 points per game, lead by MVP candidate Joel Embiid at 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. Tobias Harris has been excellent in his first two games with the team, dropping 20 points and hauling in seven rebounds. Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick combine for 38 a game and are dependable long range threats. Add Ben Simmons and his 17 points, nine rebounds and eight assists and the 76ers will always have at least one star on the court. They have also added depth in Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott, to go along with point guard T.J. McConnell.
The 76ers have perhaps become the team to beat in the East. This will be a traditional, hard fought divisional rival game that dates back to the days of Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird versus Dr. J. The game will be tight but the 76ers have too much firepower offensively and will take control late.