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Sixers-Celtics: 5 things you need to know

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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.

Sixers-Celtics thoughts: Blockbuster trade subjects highlight home opener

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Sixers-Celtics thoughts: Blockbuster trade subjects highlight home opener

Sixers (0-1) vs. Celtics (0-2)
7 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports app. Pregame Live at 6. 

The Sixers (0-1) lost their season opener to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday in a fashion that has become quite familiar in reason years.

The Sixers stood toe-to-toe with the Wiz for most of the night, fell behind late, and then made a run in the final minutes only to come up short in a 120-115 defeat.

While an admirable effort against one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams, JJ Redick made it clear that moral victories are no longer acceptable (see story).

Now the Sixers are ready to host the Boston Celtics in front of what is expected to be a raucous crowd for their home opener at the Wells Fargo Center (see story).

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

• What was all that chatter about a minutes restriction? Joel Embiid went well over what was expected to be his allotted time limit in the season opener when he played 26:57.

Afterward, both Embiid and Sixers head coach Brett Brown explained that this season, the center’s minutes will be within more of a “range” and follow a “plan.” Essentially, how much the big man plays will depend on his stamina and the flow of the game.

Embiid managed 18 points, 13 rebounds and three assists in the opener. However, he admitted there were areas that need improvement (he did commit four turnovers and was late on some defensive rotations).

• You had to like what you saw from Ben Simmons against the Wizards. He scored 18 points on 7 of 15 shooting to go along with 10 boards, five assists, two steals, one block and a single turnover.

More importantly, the point guard played with poise and conviction as he set up the Sixers’ offense.

Sixers fans might not like the fact that several of the team’s young players have missed what would have been their rookie seasons. However, there is something to be said about the advancement of a guy that has been around an NBA team for an entire year before playing a game.

• Before we get any further, let’s hope for a speedy and healthy recovery for Gordon Hayward.

By now you know the All-Star forward suffered a gruesome leg injury just minutes into his Celtics' debut.

The C’s will certainly miss his production and leadership this season.

• With Hayward now sidelined, there has been even more attention focused on Kyrie Irving’s transition to the Celtics. 

The star point guard started with a much-hyped return to face his former Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving played well in that one with a double-double of 22 points and 10 assists, but he couldn’t connect on a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer.

Irving followed that effort up with a dud in a loss to the Bucks. He scored 17 points on a rough 7 of 25 shooting, in addition to just three assists and three turnovers.

The Sixers can expect the scoring machine to try and regain his offensive rhythm right from the opening tip.

• Hey, remember when the Sixers and Celtics made a blockbuster trade involving multiple first-round picks and it was all anyone could talk about? Yeah, seems like forever ago now.

Just before June’s draft, the Sixers sent the No. 3 pick and a future first-rounder to the Celtics in exchange for the No. 1 selection. The Sixers took that opportunity to select Markelle Fultz while Boston snagged Jayson Tatum, and the rest is history.

Well, much-scrutinized history. The two rookies will forever be linked and their production compared.

After an injury-filled offseason and camp, Fultz acquitted himself well in his debut. He shot 5 for 9 from the field for 10 points with three rebounds, an assist and a highlight block. Of course, there were also those awkward looking free throws (see story).

On the other side, Tatum has had it about as rough as possible in his first pair of NBA games when it comes to matchups. He started off with LeBron James in the Celtics’ opener before coming back the next night and facing Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

That hasn’t been the best experience defensively, as both James and Antetokounmpo went off. But few men on the planet can handle those players.

Tatum has been productive in his first two games, particularly on the backboard. He’s gobbled up an impressive 22 rebounds to pair with 22 points in two games.

With Fultz playing limited minutes off the bench, it would appear Tatum has the upper hand when it comes to opportunity. But we’ll see what the No. 1 pick has in store for his first regular-season game in front of the home fans.

• Robert Covington made sure that you won’t forget about him this season.

In search of a contract extension, Covington opened the 2017-18 season with a 29-point outburst against the Wizards that included seven threes. 

We’ll see what he can do for an encore.

• The Sixers took one of the four matchups last season with the top-seeded Celtics. Their lone win came in the final meeting, a 105-99 victory on March 19. Dario Saric led the way in that one with 23 points.

Best of NBA: Clippers spoil Lonzo Ball's debut in rout of Lakers

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Best of NBA: Clippers spoil Lonzo Ball's debut in rout of Lakers

LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin scored 29 points, DeAndre Jordan added 14 points and 24 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Clippers spoiled Lonzo Ball's quiet NBA debut with a 108-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

Lou Williams added 12 points in the Clippers' first game since Chris Paul spurned the perennial playoff team after six years and forced an offseason trade to Houston. The Clippers will have a new look this season, but they were still miles ahead of their Staples Center co-tenants in both teams' season openers.

Ball had three points, four assists and nine rebounds in 29 minutes during the first game for the No. 2 overall pick from UCLA.

The Los Angeles-area native is expected to revitalize his hometown team this season, but the rookie started out with all the nerves and mistakes that might be expected from any 19-year-old point guard with the weight of a 16-time NBA champion franchise on his slender shoulders. Along with a handful of good-looking passes and a 3-pointer late in the first half, he went 1 for 6 from the field and committed two turnovers.

Brook Lopez scored 20 points in his debut for the Lakers, and Jordan Clarkson added 18.

Patrick Beverley, acquired in Paul's trade to the Rockets, had 10 points in his Clippers debut while introducing Ball to high-level NBA defense (see full recap).

Thunder debut new Big 3 in win over Knicks
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook had a triple-double and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New York Knicks 105-84 on Thursday night in their first regular-season game with All-Star additions Paul George and Carmelo Anthony

Westbrook, the NBA MVP last season when he averaged a triple-double, had with 21 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds.

Paul George, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Indiana Pacers, led the Thunder with 28 points. Anthony, who was traded from the Knicks to the Thunder right before training camp began, had 22 points against his former team.

Kristaps Porzingis had 31 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks. Enes Kanter, who joined the Knicks in the deal that sent Anthony to the Thunder, finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. No other New York players scored in double figures.

George broke away for a dunk as time expired in the first half to give the Thunder a 53-42 lead. Porzingis scored 19 points before the break to keep the Knicks in it.

Kanter made three buckets early in the third quarter to keep the Knicks in it, but Westbrook found Steven Adams and Andre Roberson for back-to-back alley-oop dunks to give the Thunder a 69-52 lead.

After that, it was time for the Westbrook triple-double watch. He reached double digits in points and assists midway through the third quarter. He grabbed his 10th rebound with about four minutes remaining in the game (see full recap).

Raptors cruise past Bulls in season opener
TORONTO -- Jonas Valanciunas had 23 points and 15 rebounds, C.J. Miles scored 22 points in his Toronto debut and the Raptors beat the short-handed Chicago Bulls 117-101 on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.

Norman Powell added 15 points, Delon Wright had 13, and Kyle Lowry 12.

The Raptors, who intend to shoot more 3-pointers and move the ball more this season, were 13 of 29 from long range and had 26 assists on 39 baskets. Lowry had nine assists, and DeMar DeRozan and Wright each had five.

Miles was 6 for 9 from 3-point range and had five rebounds.

Playmaking proved an effective avenue for DeRozan on a night when he made just two of nine field goals and did not attempt a 3-pointer. DeRozan finished with 11 points, going 7 for 8 at the free throw line, and had six rebounds.

Chicago center Robin Lopez scored 18 points, rookie Lauri Markkanen had 17 in his NBA debut, and Justin Holiday added 15.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said forward Nikola Mirotic is doing OK but is still sore two days after suffering facial fractures and a concussion in a practice fight with teammate Bobby Portis. Chicago suspended Portis for eight games following the altercation. Mirotic is expected to be out from four to six weeks (see full recap).