There's a new premier rivalry in the Eastern Conference.
At least, there should be.
After toiling in mediocrity during the mid-2010s, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers have emerged as legitimate title contenders with bright futures, showcased last postseason when they met in the East semifinals.
But so far, the revamped Boston-Philly "rivalry" has been very one-sided: The Celtics have won 17 of the teams' last 19 regular season meetings and 21 of the last 24 matchups overall.
Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who averaged a team-high 23.6 points per game in Boston's 4-1 playoff series win over Philly, was asked Friday at NBA All-Star Weekend why the C's have had so much success against the Sixers.
"I mean, they're a super, super talented team. Well coached," Tatum said during media availability at Bojangles Coliseum. "It's not like we blow them out or anything. All the games we have with them usually come down to the wire. A few critical plays that we've been fortunate enough to make a lot recently since we've been playing them. But it's super, super tough, no matter if it's a home or away game."
Tatum is right: Six of the Atlantic Division rivals' last seven regular season meetings have been decided by 11 points or fewer. The C's squeezed out a three-point win in Philly on Tuesday after the Sixers took them to overtime at TD Garden on Christmas Day.
So, while Boston leads in the win column, there's plenty of healthy competition on the court.
"Yeah, we have a good rivalry going," Tatum added. "It's super competitive. We're very familiar with them, they're very familiar with us. A lot of trash-talking out there.
"But that's what makes basketball super fun: when it's super competitive like that and everybody's watching. I enjoy playing the Sixers."
Tatum may have more opportunities in the future. If the season ended today, the No. 4 seed Celtics and No. 5 seed Sixers -- who both have 37-21 records -- would meet in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
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