Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: Sixers done being the punchline?

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30 teams in 30 days: Sixers done being the punchline?

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: Philadelphia 76ers

BOSTON –  For years the Sixers have stunk while asking their fans to “trust the process,” with the losses piling up like a clogged sewage pipe.

It’s pretty clear by the moves they made this offseason, this franchise is tired of being a league-wide punchline for putrid play.

30 teams in 30 days:

Instead, they seem poised to punch back and – wait for it! – play competitive basketball that could potentially see them do the seemingly unthinkable and that’s get to the playoffs this spring.

There is an unmistakable buzz surrounding this team that’s based on something other than potential or incredibly pitiful play.

It’s rooted in progress, the kind that just may reward fans with a trip to the postseason for the first time since 2012 when they were eliminated in the second round by the Boston Celtics.

At the heart of Philadelphia’s now-optimistic hopes of having a bright future sooner rather than later, is Joel Embiid.

The 7-foot big man was a walking force of nature in his first healthy season (injuries sidelined him for his first two seasons in the league), which was an issue with him logging limited minutes (25.4 per game) and being even more limited when it came to actual games played (31).

But in that time, he averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds with 2.1 assists and 2.5 blocks per game, the kind of stats that would put him firmly in the All-Star conversation.

However, the concerns that have dogged him since he came into the NBA – his health - are once again an issue heading into this season.

Embiid’s status to start the season remains uncertain due to a meniscus tear in his left knee suffered last season that has yet to heal to the point where he has been cleared to resume full basketball-related activities.

However, the optimism for Philadelphia competing for a playoff spot this season has more to do with them adding a pair of playoff-tested veterans in Amir Johnson and J.J. Redick who came via free agency from Boston and the Los Angeles Clippers, respectively.

Philadelphia should also benefit from having Ben Simmons on the floor.

Drafted by the Sixers with the top overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Simmons has been cleared for full basketball-related activities after having suffered a foot injury that led to him missing the entire 2016-2017 NBA season.

And Philadelphia’s top pick in last June’s NBA draft, Markelle Fultz, suffered an ankle injury during summer league in Las Vegas last month but he too is on track to be ready to go before the start of training camp.

To talk about Philadelphia and good health in the same breath, is indeed progress. And if their core guys can manage to maintain a relatively clean bill of health during the regular season, Sixers fans will finally reap the fruits of having trusted the process.

Key free agent/draft/trade additions: J.J. Redick (Los Angeles Clippers); Amir Johnson (Boston).

Key losses:  Ersan Ilyasova (Atlanta); Sergio Rodriguez (CSKA Moscow); Gerald Henderson (free agent).

Rookies of note: Markelle Fultz; Furkan Korkmaz.

Expectations: 36-44 (Third in the Atlantic Division, ninth in the East)

Kyrie is not happy with Zaza Pachulia

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File Photo

Kyrie is not happy with Zaza Pachulia

The Celtics defeated the Knicks in a game that had a little bit of everything Saturday night.

Kyrie Irving led the Celtics to victory and dominated in all of the important situations.

But he came out of the night a little pissed off.

During the Warriors-Thunders game tonight, Russell Westbrook drove to the paint and fell to the ground.

After Westbrook fell to the ground Zaza Pachulia appears to intentionally fall on to the back of his legs.

The play irritated Irving enough for him to air out his thoughts publicly on Instagram.

 

Celtics will need Kyrie to keep delivering a little bit of everything

Celtics will need Kyrie to keep delivering a little bit of everything

It was fitting that Kyrie Irving flirted with a triple-double in Boston’s 121-112 win over New York. Because as Boston focuses on finishing out the regular season well, they’re going to need Irving to deliver a little bit of everything.

And he did just that as Boston (42-19) has strung together back-to-back wins coming out of the all-star break, looking and playing like a very different – and better – team than the one we saw prior to the break which lost three straight and four of five.

Irving finished with 31 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, with most of his damage coming in the third quarter when he scored 15 points to go with four rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.

“The basket was still the same, the ball felt the same,” Irving told NBC Sports Boston following the Celtics win. “Probably leaving my fingers a little bit different; and on back-to-backs, getting my legs a little bit. So, just had to get it up a little more and see it go in once or twice, go to the free throw line and stay composed.”

Indeed, even as the Knicks put together one surge after another, Irving seemed to have an answer whether it’s driving to the basket and knocking down a big shot, or penetrating the Knicks defense and find a teammate for an easy basket whether it be a lay-up or a lob to Jaylen Brown for a dunk.

He gave the game what it needed.

And on this night, the game needed him to give a little bit of everything.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 121-112 win over the New York Knicks which was the Celtics’ sixth win in their last eight appearances at Madison Square Garden.

STARS

Kyrie Irving: When it comes to picking one’s spots when to dominate, there are few in the NBA better at this than Kyrie Irving. He was hands-down the best player on the floor Saturdaynight and was on the cusp of a triple-double before finishing with 31 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

Trey Burke: For those who thought Trey Burke’s NBA career was good as buried, think again. After flaming out with the Utah Jazz and the Washington Wizards, Burke appears to have rediscovered his game in New York. For most of the night, he was New York’s best option scoring the ball. He had 26 points in just under 27 minutes of court time, connecting on 10 of his 19 shot attempts.

STUDS

Jaylen Brown: Irving’s backcourt mate was a problem all game for the New York Knicks. Jaylen Brown had a couple of nice dunks, jumpers and an overall strong night on several levels. He had 24 points on 10-for-17 shooting from the field.

Al Horford: This was a very solid, workmanlike game for the five-time All-star. He tallied his 14th double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds in addition to three blocked shots.  

DUDS

KNICKS 3-POINT SHOOTING: The numbers for Boston’s 3-point defense look a lot better than they played courtesy of New York missing some good looks from deep. For the game, the Knicks were just 6-for-22 shooting on 3’s.

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