Sixers host Celtics in season opener. Fans’ expectations are sky high. | Off the Dribble
A rivalry game? NBA title aspirations? The Wells Fargo Center is going to be rocking tonight.
What’s up, people?
Today is a good day, Check that. It’s a great day.
For me, this great day began with a workout before heading over to one’s elementary school for parent-teacher day. By the time most folks are reading this, all of my attention will have turned to tonight’s 76ers season opener against the Boston Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center.
The arena is going to be rocking, not just because it is a season opener or that the Sixers are expected to contend for an NBA title. The sellout crowd will also be hyped up due to facing the rival Celtics.
The two teams will meet in the season opener for the third time in five seasons. Credit the NBA for providing fans in both cities the early-season matchup they want.
It’s going to be interesting, and The Inquirer and Inquirer.com will have you covered with all the latest news, just like with this newsletter.
You’re signed up to get this newsletter in your inbox Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week during the Sixers’ season. If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @PompeyOnSixers. Thank you for reading.
— Keith Pompey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Celtics provide a big test for Sixers
For the Sixers, facing the Celtics on the first day is a blessing in disguise.
It will provide an early regular-season barometer for how they fare in transition defense and against a zone while on offense.
The Sixers struggled mightily in both areas in Friday’s preseason finale against the Washington Wizards. Afterward, the players didn’t seem overly concerned, saying they were areas that are easy to correct.
We’ll find out tonight.
Expect the Celtics’ small-ball lineup of Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Daniel Theis to get out and run against the Sixers. Also expect Boston to resort to a zone defense versus the Sixers’ towering starting lineup.
“In my opinion, Boston doesn’t really get the attention that I think they should,” coach Brett Brown said. “I think they have a bunch of dangerous scorers. They really have a bunch of dangerous scorers.”
The coach also admitted that the Celtics’ small-ball offense, zone defense, and expected double-teaming of Joel Embiid could hurt the Sixers.
Those are things the Sixers have talked about and practiced against, so they won’t get caught off guard.
“How we react to it is an entirely different story,” Brown said. “But we identify it. You know, really most of the pain can come from transition, just because on defense they are fliers. But it will be a good test given they are kind of very, very differently designed than we are.”
My Sixers predictions: No Finals, but Embiid will be the NBA’s top defender, and Ben Simmons will sink three-pointers.
Does this new Sixers roster fit together? Nat Kitaw breaks down what advanced statistics that go beyond points and rebounds say about the Sixers as a team and as individuals.
Sixers podcast: Dissecting the backup point guard spot, Jamal Crawford’s availability, and the Celtics. Marc Narducci doesn’t think it would be wise to play Josh Richardson as the backup point guard.
Shooting star? Simmons has plenty of game without launching three-pointers. “I know what I’m good at. I know what I’m great at. There’s things I need to work on. But my game is not going to change in a day,” he said.
For Brett Brown and the Sixers, it’s “go time”. I write that the Sixers will open their most-anticipated season in decades Wednesday night against the rival Boston Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center.
Come on, bruh
Monday was my official off day.
In truth, it was an official work-the-phones day. That’s a long story about how NBA beat writers seldom have days off. But, who’s complaining? This is my dream job.
Well, I got back on the grind Tuesday morning by watching videos of Monday’s media availability. Simmons’ interview stood out the most.
The Sixers point guard was being Mr. Politically Correct, at least that was my impression.
A reporter asked whether there’s a little bit of added fuel to facing the Celtics in the season opener due to the rivalry.
“Every game to me is important,” Simmons said. “I don’t really look whether it’s the last team or the first team. Every game is important to me.”
The All-Star point guard said what everyone expected him to say, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t coachspeak.
This is a rivalry game, a huge season opener against the team that has given him some fits.
Yes, this game has some added fuel for Simmons. A least, it should.
Important Dates: First five out the gate
Wednesday: Boston Celtics at Sixers, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia and ESPN
Saturday: Sixers at Detroit Pistons, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Oct. 28: Sixers at Atlanta Hawks, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Oct. 30: Minnesota Timberwolves at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Nov. 2: Sixers at Portland Trail Blazers, 10 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia and NBA TV
Passing the Rock
Question: Which matchup do you think is going to be the best to watch in the season opener, Kemba Walker vs. Josh Richardson or Carsen Edwards vs. Matisse Thybulle? — @quietstorm12_ on Twitter
Answer: What’s up, @quietstorm12_? Great question. I would have go with Walker against Richardson. I think people will pay attention to Edwards and Thybulle just because of the draft-day trade. For folks who don’t remember, the Sixers moved up four spots in a trade with the Celtics to select Thybulle with the 20th pick in June’s NBA draft. Boston received the Sixers’ 24th pick and the 33rd overall selection in the second round. The Celtics selected the electrifying Edwards with the 33rd pick.
But Walker was a Sixers killer during his time with the Charlotte Hornets. Last season, he averaged 37 points in four games against them. The three-time All-Star point guard had 60 points in a 122-119 overtime loss to the Sixers on Nov. 17. Most of those points came against Jimmy Butler, who sank the game-winning three-pointer.
Butler was traded in the offseason to the Miami Heat for Richardson, who regards himself as one of the league’s top two-way players. The Sixers have already said that the fifth-year player will guard the opposing point guard. As a result, it will be interesting to see if he’ll be able to contain the high-scoring Walker.
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