LONDON – As much as players for both Boston and Philadelphia wanted to win their Thursday afternoon matchup, there was more at stake for a number of players with all-star weekend aspirations.
A number of players are in the hunt to be named to the all-star team, while others are under consideration for other events such as the Rookie-Sophomore game and the 3-point shootout.
So how did Boston’s 114-103 win over Philadelphia impact their all-star weekend chances?
He is a four-time all-star and all signs point toward him making a fifth all-star appearance next month. He was a media magnet during his time in London and his play on Thursday did nothing but cement his place among the top players in the NBA. And the most recent fan poll had Irving tops among Eastern Conference guards with 1,370,643 votes.
“That would be great,” Embiid said. “Every time I play I feel like, this is a business, I want to win, I’m a winner, I’m competitive. But at the same time, this is also for the fans. I want to have fun. I always do have fun on the court. And I play better when I have fun.”
The Tatum bandwagon seems to get bigger and stronger as this season progresses. While he’s most likely to be named to the league’s Rising Stars Challenge (aka the Rookie/Sophomore game), the 6-foot-8 Tatum is getting some surprisingly strong all-star voting love. He is currently seventh in the voting with 213,499 votes. And his play on Thursday can only help his chance of being in Los Angeles for all-star weekend. In the win, Tatum had 16 points which included 11 in the third quarter. He was 1-for-3 on 3’s and is currently shooting 45.9 percent on 3’s which is second in the NBA to Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic (46.5 percent on 3’s).
While one of the league’s most improved players, Brown’s likely all-star weekend plans will include a spot in the Rising Stars Challenge. Brown’s versatility at both ends of the floor has stood out. It was on display Thursday night when he led the Celtics with 21 points. His play has been so good, he has cracked the top-10 among guards in all-star voting. The 6-7 wing has received a total of 103, 222 all-star votes.
Horford’s All-star weekend plans are likely to include a trip to Los Angeles for the all-star game with Horford once again getting in by being selected by the coaches. Their role is so vital in selecting all-stars whose contributions may get overlooked by fan voting. And the job he did on Thursday was yet another reminder of how important Horford has been to Boston’s success of late. He had 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but the real key to his play was his defense which limited Joel Embiid to 15 points on 6-for-17 shooting with most of his points coming while being guarded by Daniel Theis.
Speaking of Theis, the 25-year-old has no shot at being an all-star, but he might squeeze his way into all-star weekend as a potential participant in the Rising Stars Challenge game which is now divided up into games with American rookies and sophomores taking on international first and second-year players. Embiid was a tough cover whenever Theis was on him, but still had a decent game against the Sixers by finishing with seven points and five rebounds while making all three of his field goal attempts. It was a good performance, but not good enough to move the needle one way or another when it comes to having something to do during all-star weekend.
Embiid has emerged as one of the more engaging international players in the NBA. And it only helps that he’s an extremely dominant player most nights. And while the Celtics delivered yet another defensive masterpiece against him, there’s little doubt about Embiid’s status as a likely all-star next month. And most likely, he’ll be a starter. The top-3 frontcourt players after all the various voting groups are tabulated, will be named to the all-star team. Embiid is currently third among frontcourt players in the East with 784, 287 votes.
The runaway leader for Rookie of the Year is a lock to be named to the Rising Stars Challenge game. But he’s making a strong push to be named as an all-star as well. Simmons is currently third among Eastern Conference guards, with 397,942 fan-based votes. Like Embiid, his performance on Thursday (16 points, three assists) did not help or hinder his all-star weekend plans.
Redick has been one of the better 3-point shooters for as long as he’s been in the NBA, so it would come as no surprise if he’s among those invited to compete in the 3-point shootout. If so, it would be his third time competing. In 2015, he finished seventh out of the eight-man field, and came back the following year to finish fourth. Based on how he lit up the Celtics defense in the first half, you can understand why he’s always in the conversation when talk centers around the best pure shooters. He led all scorers on Thursday with 22 points which included 5-for-9 shooting from 3-point range.