The 76ers (17-63; 5th-Atlantic Division, 14th-Eastern Conference) play their final game of the season in South Philadelphia, hosting the Boston Celtics (25-55; 4th-Atlantic Division, 12th-Eastern Conference). The Sixers have faired about the same at home as they have on the road. They’re 9-31 at Wells Fargo Center, and 8-32 away from the arena.
For a Sixers team looking to make a positive last impression for fans, a match-up with Boston could be just the right solution. Since January 15th, the Sixers have posted two of their past three wins – including their most recent one on April 4th – against the Celtics. The Sixers have positioned themselves to take the four-game season series from Boston, which last happened seven years ago.
The Celtics, like the Sixers, are nearing the end of a tough season, one that was put in motion due mostly to substantial roster turnover. Boston is on track for its third-worst record of all-time, heading into its second-to-last game having won only 31 percent of its games.
The Celtics enjoyed modest success over the weekend, earning back-to-back wins. On Friday, Boston snapped a season-high tying nine-game losing streak by defeating the playoff-bound Charlotte Bobcats. Then, on Saturday, the C’s halted a 13-game road losing streak by rolling past the Cleveland Cavaliers, 111-99.
With only nine wins at Wells Fargo Center this season, the 76ers are in line to post a losing home record for just the second time over the past 16 years. After winning four of their first seven home games, the Sixers have since found fleeting success in South Philadelphia. The team’s troubles on its own floor this year have been underscored by an 18-game skid that spanned a month and a half.
“I hope [fans] can see layers where we are building something,” said Brett Brown, expressing appreciation for the support his group has received this year. At this morning’s shoot-around, he cited the growth of young players, such as NBA Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Carter-Williams, as reason for hope.
“You can easily get discouraged when you focus solely on record. I hope they see what I see, and what they don’t see, I hope they appreciate that things are moving behind the scenes. I think slowly we’re building a culture that’s professional and real.”
Carter-Williams echoed similar thoughts.
“I think we’ve shown that no matter how things go, we’re not going to give up,” Carter-Williams said. “They showed me a lot of support, and I enjoy them. One day, when we’re making the playoffs, and doing those types of things, they’ll deserve a team that’s good.”
Carter-Williams paces first-year players with averages of 16.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. Taken 11th overall in the draft this past June, the Syracuse product could be the latest pick to win NBA Rookie of the Year honors since Mark Jackson, who was the 18th choice of the 1987 draft.
“I know I’ve been in the running for rookie of the year. It’s something I’ve worked hard for. It’s going to be fun to see. Hopefully I can win it. If not, I’m going to keep trying to get better ever day.”
The Boston Celtics made a relatively unorthodox decision to hold their game-day shoot-around at a site other than Wells Fargo Center. Instead of having his team’s morning walkthrough on the Sixers’ home court, first-year head coach Brad Stevens, who spent the past six years at Butler University, opted to run practice at the Palestra, the tradition-rich venue located on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus.
“For me, of all the places that I coached in college, this place would be second to the one that I coached at every day,” said Stevens, referring to Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, which opened in 1928, a year after the Palestra. “We’re all over the place other times in the other cities we play in, and there’s a lot of great venues in those places that you don’t always get a chance to play in. At the end of the day, this a fun thing for all of us to see a different venue.”
Stevens brought Butler to the Palestra to play Penn in March 2012. Stevens went 166-49 with the Bulldogs, leading the program to back-to-back NCAA national championship final appearances in 2010 and 2011.
Click the audio link to hear a brief interview with Sixers guard Michael Carter-Williams, who discusses his first season in Philadelphia, and his chances of earning NBA Rookie of the Year honors.