The 76ers have a little breathing room in their schedule, at least by NBA standards. After Monday’s 120-113 home win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Sixers will have had two full days off before resuming action at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday against the Boston Celtics.
This month, the Sixers have 13 games, a manageable load, especially after playing 16 games in December.
Coach Brett Brown said that the January schedule would allow more time for practice. This month the Sixers will have two full days off on four different occasions.
The Sixers practiced on Tuesday and will return for more work on Wednesday to prepare for the Celtics. After the Sixers finish their afternoon practice they can actually scout Thursday’s opponent, since the Celtics will be playing at home on Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs.
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This is the third meeting between the Sixers and Celtics and for the second consecutive time, the Celtics will be playing the second game of a back-to-back, while the Sixers will be resting up.
The teams opened the season with the Sixers’ 107-93 win at the Wells Fargo Center.
The second time the teams met was Dec. 12 and the Sixers won, 115-109, in Boston. The Sixers had played Dec. 10, beating Denver 97-92, but then had a day off in between.
In fact, the Sixers were in Boston before the Celtics, who had to play at Indiana the previous night, where they lost to the Pacers, 122-117.
So the Sixers, despite being on the road, were the more rested team.
NBA teams generally don’t complain because they realize that all things usually come out pretty close to equal when it comes to scheduling.
For instance, earlier this season, the Sixers and Miami Heat faced each other in the second game of back-to-backs for both teams Nov. 23 at the Wells Fargo Center. The difference was that Miami played at Chicago the night before while the Sixers were home against San Antonio.
Final score: Sixers 113, Miami 86, and the game wasn’t that close.
When Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was asked if playing the night before in Chicago took a toll on the Heat, he said it made no difference. “The 76ers were better than we were, no excuses,” he said.
That’s a noble attitude, but it doesn’t mean that some teams don’t have advantage due to the schedule.
This time, the Sixers’ advantage in rest could be negated if Joel Embiid can’t perform. The two-time all-star dislocated his ring finger in Monday’s win over OKC. He missed Tuesday’s practice to undergo further off-site evaluation.
So while the Sixers have the advantage in rest, it remains to be seen if this is much of an edge, especially if Embiid is unable to play.
Third-year Boston forward Jayson Tatum has for the most part played well against the Sixers, but this year he has struggled with his shot in both Boston losses.
In 10 career regular-season games, Tatum is averaging 17.4 points, shooting 42.7 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three-point range against the Sixers.
When the Celtics eliminated the Sixers in five games during the 2018 Eastern Conference semifinals during Tatum’s rookie year, he averaged 23.6 points, shooting 52.6 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from three-point range.
During this year’s two losses to the Sixers, Tatum is averaging 18 points, but has shot just 13 for 40 (32.6 percent). He has actually shot better from beyond the arc, 7 for 16 (43.8 percent).
Containing Tatum, who turns 22 in March, will be a key for the Sixers. And of course Sixers fans will always remember that Tatum was available in the 2017 draft when the Sixers traded up with Boston to select Markelle Fultz, while Boston gladly selected Tatum third.
Tomorrow: Boston at Sixers, 7 p.m. NBC Sports Philadelphia, TNT
Saturday: Sixers at Dallas Mavericks, 8 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Monday: Sixers at Indiana Pacers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Jan. 15: Brooklyn Nets at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia, ESPN
Jan. 17: Chicago Bulls at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia, ESPN
Question/comment: Bell ringer should have been Embiid. Playing through a dislocated finger, protecting the rim like he always does. Big buckets and passes to extend lead. Ben does get credit for a couple of crucial rebound tap outs. — from Sportz4natic on Twitter
Answer: Thanks for the comment and for reading our content on Inquirer.com/sports. For those unfamiliar with the tradition, the Sixers named a bell ringer, their version of game MVP and in the locker room after the OKC win and coach Brett Brown said it was Ben Simmons.
While you make a good point that Embiid had 18 points, nine rebounds and a season-high eight assists, while playing in obvious pain from the dislocated finger, Simmons was a standout on both ends of the court. He had a game-best plus-18 rating and added 17 points, a season-high 15 rebounds and eight assists. Simmons also played strong defense on the dangerous Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Even Embiid talked afterward about how he couldn’t grab a rebound with both hands and he lauded Simmons for his rebounding. If Embiid was the bell ringer, I would have had no problem, but just thought Simmons was the most valuable player in what was a big win that ended a four-game losing streak and snapped OKC’s five-game winning streak.