LONDON -- One of the most talked about takeaways for the Celtics while in London is the benefits they may receive from the extended time off.
No one knows for sure how big a lift -- if any -- Boston will receive from the added downtime.
But one thing we do know based on how this season has played out: Given time to rest, the Celtics have consistently been the best version of themselves. And that has usually been good enough to win.
In fact, the Celtics are 4-1 this season when they have had more than one day of rest in between games.
The lone loss? The 102-99 season-opening loss at Cleveland, the game in which Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome dislocated left ankle injury that has kept him out of action ever since.
“We’re a good team,” Marcus Smart told NBC Sports Boston. “But if we get a little rest before games, a chance to tighten up a couple things, we can be really, really good.”
Here are five under-the-radar story lines heading into today’s game between Boston and Philadelphia.
TWENTY-FIVE AND COUNTING
When it comes to globe-trotting, one place where the Celtics haven’t spent much time is on the fre- throw line. They've gone a franchise-record 25 straight games without making at least 20 free throws. For the season, Boston is averaging 20.9 free throws made, which ranks 18th in the league.
Despite his dominant ways, the Sixers remain cautious in how they use Joel Embiid. That’s why he still doesn’t play in any back-to-back games. But it’s clear that for Philly to clear that next hurdle, which for them would be getting to the playoffs, they are absolutely going to need the big fella. Since he was drafted by the Sixers, Philadelphia has a .500 record (30-30) when he plays. Without him, their record stands at just 45-178, which is a winning percentage of .202. His impact is particularly noticeable defensively. The team’s defensive rating this season is 99.3 when he has been on the floor. It balloons to 107.0 when he’s on the bench.
DEFENSE LEADING THE WAY
Boston comes in having won six straight, which is the longest current winning streak in the NBA. And they’ve done it despite the team’s offense for the most part not being very good. During the six-game winning streak, Boston’s offensive rating has been just 100.3, which ranks 29th in the league during that period of time.
Markelle Fultz, the top overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, is with the Sixers here in London after having missed most of this season with right shoulder soreness and muscle imbalance, which affected his shooting mechanics. His presence has prompted some to speculate about him possibly suiting up tonight. That’s highly unlikely to happen, folks. He’s doing more work with the team but he has yet to be cleared for full practice, an absolute precursor to him returning to the court. “It’s good to be out there . . . again,” Fultz told reporters here in London earlier this week. “Just be able to interact with them. Be a competitor again, which I am.” The Sixers used the number one overall pick to select Fultz after trading the No. 3 overall pick and a 2018 Los Angeles Lakers first-round pick, to Boston. The Celtics used the third overall pick to select Jayson Tatum.
At some point, this guy really should have some kind of endorsement deal with a paint company because that’s pretty much where his points are going to come from. In fact, 89 percent (455 of 514) of his shot attempts are in the paint this season. And in terms of scoring, 496 of Simmons’ points have been in the paint, 103 points from the free throw line with only 28 points scored this season coming from outside the paint.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE