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Celtics-76ers: 2021 Edition

What to expect heading into the rivals' first matchups of the season this week

It's pretty well documented that the current squads of the Celtics and 76ers aren't exactly buddy-buddy. This continues a storied rivalry between the two cities, with a long history of titans of our game matching up, such as Russell vs Chamberlain and Bird vs Dr. J. Now, we get the pleasure of watching Tatum and Brown take on Embiid and Simmons.

The Celtics have had Philly's number the past few seasons, putting up a 15-6 record against them since Tatum's rookie season, which includes two smack downs in the playoffs (4-1 in the 17-18 season, and a 4-0 sweep in the bubble last season). You may remember the 17-18 series for Philly dropping confetti early (in a game that the Celtics won in OT), and Marcus Morris giving Embiid the "3-0" when the two started chirping at each other. These playoff losses lead to Embiid saying "This is not a rivalry... they always kick our ass", which is music to all Celtics fans' ears.


Despite all of this recent success, the Celtics should have their work ahead of them with the 6ers this season. Philly finally decided that enough was enough this offseason when they moved on from Brett Brown, who routinely failed to make meaningful adjustments in the playoffs, and couldn't get the most out of his young stars. Instead, you will see a familiar face on the 6ers' sidelines, Doc Rivers, former Celtics coach and a vital part of the Pierce, KG, Allen title runs.

Doc has his squad off to a hot start. The 6ers currently sit at 9-5, which in itself is a pretty good start, although that record is a bit misleading because of injuries to their main guys. The current state of Covid in the NBA put a damper on the hot 6ers 7-2 start, when the majority of the team had to quarantine for multiple games. For reference, the team had to play with a 7-man squad against Denver, with a starting lineup that included Dakota Mathias, Isaiah Joe, and Tyrese Maxey. Even past Covid, Embiid has been nursing a knee injury that has kept him sidelined even longer.

In games that Embiid has played in, the 76ers are 9-2. Embiid is expected to play tomorrow night, so expect to see that version of the team. In those 11 games, Embiid has been beyond scary, putting up 25/11.5 on 53.6/39.4/84.5 splits. And that 39.4% from 3 is on 3 attempts a night (which is on pace to be a huge improvement compared to his last few seasons).


Of course, Embiid's running mate Ben Simmons is also a force to be reckoned with, despite his offensive output slipping a bit compared to last year. Despite some saying he is off to a disappointing start, he is still averaging 12.3/9.3/8, along with his All-NBA level defense.

Other guys to look out for will be Tobias Harris (who looks much improved under Doc's system), Seth Curry (although he'll be out tomorrow night, he may be back for Friday), and Furkan Korkmaz, who should be back from injury tomorrow. Dwight Howard and Danny Green have also joined the team this season, giving Philly some much needed veteran (and championship-pedigree) presence.


Unfortunately, the Celtics will still be without Tatum for tomorrow, although he may be back for Friday. As you can tell, this week may not be a great look at how the teams will match up later in the season, but given the history, both games will definitely be slug fests.

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