Celtics-76ers preview: Sweeping Sixers means limiting Joel Embiid


Celtics-76ers preview: Sweeping Sixers means limiting Joel Embiid

BOSTON – Joel Embiid is Philadelphia’s starting center. 

And when it comes to the team’s play, he wants to be the center of attention. 

Well big fella, you’ll get your wish tonight as the Boston Celtics (34-11) go for the season sweep against the Philadelphia. 

But for the Sixers (20-20) to win in Boston for the first time since 2014, they’ll have to do it without J.J. Redick (out with left fibula injury) who had a game-high 22 points when the Celtics and Sixers played last week in London. 

That means Embiid will have the ball in his hands quite a bit, as Philly tries to make up for the absence of Redick who is one of the best long-range shooters in the NBA. 

“We know they’ll go more inside to (Ben) Simmons and (Joel) Embiid,” said Celtics forward/center Daniel Theis. “It’s gonna be a team job to … focus on defense again.”

When the two met last week in London, defense was an afterthought for Boston in the first half, struggles that allowed Philadelphia to pull ahead by as many as 22 points before the Celtics regrouped, re-focused and played with a re-energized vigor in the second half before pulling away for a 114-103 win. 

Doing so tonight will once again require them to limit the impact of Embiid who will have the offense flow more through him, something that did not happen in the early goings of last week’s game, something Embiid didn’t mince his words about following the loss. 

“I started off really frustrated by the way everything was set up,” Embiid said following the loss in London. “And if I’m not having fun … kick someone’s ass or talking trash, if I’m not doing that, usually I have bad games.”

Embiid had a double-double of 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists against the Celtics, but he shot just 6-for-17 from the field and turned the ball over four times.

“I didn’t do a good job of letting my teammates find me,” Embiid said at the time.

While Embiid believes his struggles in London had more to do with what he didn’t do rather than what the Celtics did, the Celtics have done a good job defensively on Embiid all season. 

In the two games Embiid has played against the Celtics this season, he is averaging 13.0 points while shooting just 30.3 percent from the field. Both serve as Embiid’s lowest scoring average and shooting percentage against teams he faced more than once this season. 

 And his career average of 16.3 points per game against Boston is his lowest career scoring average against any team that he has played against at least three times. 

One of the keys to the Celtics defensively has been Aron Baynes, whose 94.9 defensive rating is tops among all NBA players who log at least 18 minutes of action per game.

Baynes has size, strength and has better lateral quickness than one would expect for a 6-foot-10, 260-pound center. 

But preparation is also key for his success defensively. 

“We have great coaches here and watch so much film,” Baynes told NBC Sports Boston. “They tell you their tendencies, whatever you need to do for the upcoming game, they put you in great position. As long as you stay within the system, you’re usually in a pretty good spot. That’s what I try and do.”


BEST OF BST PODCAST: Welcome back Celtics

NBC Sports Boston Photo

BEST OF BST PODCAST: Welcome back Celtics

0:41 - The Celtics returned from the All-Star Break in style with a 110-98 win over the Detroit Pistons thanks to a 65-point performance from their bench. A. Sherrod Blakely, Kayce Smith, DJ Bean and Tom Curran break down the victory.

5:52 - More details have been released about the FBI’s probe into NCAA basketball. Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, DJ Bean and Jim Murray discuss how the possible violations by multiple schools will affect the economy of college sports.

11:49 - After saying that the Patriots knew that Malcolm Butler would not be starting in Super Bowl LII, New England safety Devin McCourty amended his statement, adding that the team didn’t know Butler would sit out the entire game. The BST crew continue to discuss the biggest talking point to come out of the Super Bowl.

17:20 - Lou Merloni and Evan Drellich join DJ Bean to discuss the current state of Red Sox Spring Training camp, from the absence of J.D. Martinez to the status of certain bench players like Blake Swihart.



Smart helps Celtics end three-game losing skid

Smart helps Celtics end three-game losing skid

There were Boston Celtics who had more points, rebounds and assists than Marcus Smart. 

But make no mistake about it. 

The Boston Celtics are a better team with Smart’s return, evident by them cruising to a 110-98 win over Detroit. 


Smart was part of a strong second unit, tallying 12 points in his first game back after missing the previous 11 due to a laceration on his right hand that required 20 stitches to close after he punched a picture frame last month. 

“I felt great,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston following the game. “This training staff did a good job of making sure I was still in shape and ready come back when I did come back.”

Within minutes of entering the game, Smart drained a 3-pointer which was part of a Celtics’ 3-point barrage in which they were collectively 17-for-39 on 3’s.

Said Boston’s Daniel Theis: “He (Smart) was great for us today.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-98 win over Detroit. 



Daniel Theis: The 25-year-old rookie came up with one big hustle play after another. And when all was said and done, he had a career-high 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting to go with seven rebounds.

Ish Smith: For most of the night, he was the best player on the floor for the Detroit Pistons. He would lead Detroit with 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting along with six assists. 

Celtics bench: This was one of the best games we’ve seen from Boston’s backups. Along with doing a solid job defensively, the Celtics’ bench absolutely dominated the game scoring the ball. For the night, they had a season-high 65 points scored.



Kyrie Irving: Irving did not have the monster game offensively, and the reason was clear: they didn’t need it. He had 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting which included four made 3’s, not to mention six assists.

Andre Drummond: He got off to a slow start, but Drummond’s play around the rim really picked up after the first quarter as he finished with a double-double of 15 points and 17 rebounds.



Blake Griffin: He had 17 points, but he was non-factor most of the game courtesy of some really strong play defensively by Al Horford. Griffin shot just 5-for-19 from the field and turned the ball over six times.