Sixers-Celtics: 5 things you need to know


Sixers-Celtics: 5 things you need to know

Nearly 50 games into the season and the Sixers finally get a chance to face the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night at the TD Garden (7:30 p.m./CSN).

Though the Sixers and Celtics dwell in the cellar of the division, the storied rivalry is as heated as ever. Both clubs are in full rebuilding mode and appear to be in a race to acquire the most ping-pong balls for next June’s draft.

At 14-31, the Sixers hold a slight advantage, but the Celtics, at 15-32, have lost 14 of their last 16 games.

Here are a few things to know about Wednesday’s game:

1. MCW vs. Rondo
Michael Carter-Williams’ latest point-guard test is against Rajon Rondo, the wily veteran who collects triple-doubles the way kids used to collect baseball cards. The thing about this matchup is Carter-Williams will face Rondo in the just the seventh game this season for the Celtics point guard and Rondo's first in a back-to-back.

Fresh off rehab to repair a torn ACL, Rondo is still finding his way back, averaging just 6.6 points and 5.8 assists per game. He also hasn’t played more than 30 minutes in a game, and he's scored more than eight points just once.

Carter-Williams, on the other hand, is on his way to the Rookie of the Year Award. Though he has been slightly inconsistent over the past few weeks, Carter-Williams still averaged 20 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game over his last five.

2. Back to Boston
Carter-Williams, from nearby Hamilton, Mass., isn’t the only member of the Sixers headed for a home game of sorts. Coach Brett Brown is from South Portland, Maine and played college ball at Boston University where he played games at the old Boston Garden.

Brown grew up following the Sixers-Celtics rivalry and has vivid memories of Andrew Toney, "The Boston Strangler," wrecking the Celtics during the 1981 and 1982 Eastern Conference Finals.

“I can still hear the NBA music and introduction to the NBA Game of the Week. To travel down to the Garden and be able to see [George] McGinnis and Julius Erving and Bobby Jones and [Andrew] Toney, [Maurice] Cheeks and Doug [Collins] play,” Brown said after Tuesday’s practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “I just couldn’t believe how Andrew Toney would just kick the Celtics’ tail. To me, he was unguardable. He was just such a one-on-one, triple threat. Rock-a-step, rock-a-step threat. He was a big part of my upbringing and my memory of the NBA, more so than the Celtics-Lakers battles.”

Additionally, injured center Nerlens Noel is from Malden, Mass. and grew up playing ball with Carter-Williams.

Needless to say, it will be a big homecoming for a few in the Sixers’ traveling party.

3. Turner getting warm
The Feb. 20 trade deadline is slowly creeping up and, coincidentally, Evan Turner’s production has taken a slight uptick lately, too.

In his last 10 games, Turner is shooting 44.7 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three-point range and 85.1 percent from the line. In his last four games, Turner has found his scoring stroke, pouring in 34 against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden and 21 against the Suns on Monday night. Over the last four games, Turner is 29 for 62 from the floor (4 for 9 from three-point range) and 21 for 23 from the foul line.

Could better numbers get Turner traded before the deadline? Maybe not. Then again, it doesn’t hurt.

4. Fast and slow
The Sixers lead the NBA in pace with 99.6 possessions per 48 minutes. No other team is within two possessions of the Sixers, who also lead the NBA with 88.5 shots per game.

The Celtics also get a lot of shots per game -- 82.8 per game for the seventh-most in the league.

The difference is in the way the teams get their shots. The Sixers run up and down the court and launch themselves at the rim. The thought is that more possessions and more shots will produce more points. With 101.3 points per game, there is something to that.

Of course, the Sixers open themselves up to turnovers and having their shots blocked, two more categories in which they lead the NBA.

The Celtics are much more deliberate. They get just 93.2 possessions per game, well below the league average, and just 94.7 points per game, 27th in the league. Though they get plenty of shots, the Celtics shoot just 43.7 percent, better than only four teams in the league.

In other words, expect a lot of rebounds on Wednesday night ... for both teams.

5. Injuries
Arnett Moultrie’s ankle is, “100 percent,” according to Brown, but the second-year forward still needs to get into shape before returning to game action.

Brandon Davies (finger), Jason Richardson (knee) and Noel (knee) are out.

For the Celtics, Jerryd Bayless (toe) and guard Avery Bradley (ankle) are likely out. Keith Bogans (personal reasons) has been away from the team since Jan. 14 and will not return for the foreseeable future.

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as he liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fade away jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guy’s first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuawon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).