By Connor Thomas
The 1st place 76ers are back in action tonight against the Boston Celtics in game 2 of the teams’ 2 game series in South Philly. The first installment of the 2021 version of the vaunted Sixers-Celtics rivalry went the way of Philadelphia, thanks in large part to one Joel Embiid and his 42 point dominant performance in Wednesday night’s game. The Celtics did not go down easy, as the game was tight until the very end and took a herculean effort from Embiid, as well as some stellar defensive play from Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle. The question, of course, is will tonight’s game be more of the same, or will the seemingly favored Sixers be able to dispatch a Boston side that will once again be without All-Star Forward Jayson Tatum. Wednesday night did see a resurgence from Kemba Walker who recently returned from injury for the Celtics, but with Walker still on a team imposed minutes restriction, it will be a tall task for him to impact the entire game.
The similar situation on Philly’s side is sharpshooting guard Seth Curry, who will play for the first time in just over 2 weeks as he returns from COVID ineligibility. Curry had been a revelation so far this year for a Sixers organization that had lacked a deadeye shooter since JJ Redick departed for New Orleans. Even if he plays reduced minutes, the added spacing that Curry brings will be a welcome return to Doc Rivers’ game plan for tonight’s contest. Outside of Curry’s return, the personnel for each side should be identical to what we saw in game 1 of this mini-series. One trend worth noting is that the Sixers have swept both of their 2 game series so far this year (Washington, Miami) while Boston has gone 1-1 in each of theirs (Indiana, Detroit). It would be a great sign if the Sixers were able to defeat Boston for a second straight game.
The offensive matchup of the game for the Sixers is clearly Joel Embiid against the Tristan Thompson-Daniel Theis tandem, but because that wasn’t even a contest during Wednesday night’s action, I think the more intriguing offensive option to keep your eye on is the aforementioned Seth Curry. It will be interesting to see how Curry handles his return after 2 weeks of inactivity and how his bout with COVID affects his ability to contribute against Boston.
The defensive matchup of the game for the Sixers will be Matisse Thybulle and his time spent guarding Kemba Walker. Thybulle has seen reduced minutes compared to his rookie season, but in Wednesday night’s contest he saw more playing time, most of it spent guarding Walker. Thybulle, who showed the makings of a shutdown NBA defender in his rookie season, could be a key piece in determining the playoff ceiling of this Sixers team, so if he continues to see increased minutes, it will benefit Philly to see him continue to improve his defensive impact when on the floor.
Tip Off: 7:30PM
TV: ESPN and NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: Right here on 97.5 The Fanatic!