BEFORE 76ERS home games a video collage of the team is shown with clips that span the 50 years the organization has been in Philadelphia. Not surprisingly, many of the highlights show Sixers players going against the Boston Celtics. There's Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell doing battle around the rim; Doug Collins driving around John Havlicek; Julius Erving scrapping with Larry Bird and Andrew Toney strangling the Celts with his offense.
It was considered perhaps the best rivalry in all of sports in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. While the fabulous feud had become lukewarm for a couple of decades, it appears to have at least started to reach the simmering point again.
Perhaps it is because the Sixers have become a real thorn in the Celtics side of late, as they won two of three in the regular season last year, had the seven-game playoff run and won the teams' matchup earlier this season. While Boston might be on a bit of a downward slide as its average age has climbed, it is still a standard by which the Sixers can measure themselves. They'll have two more chances in the next couple of days as they host the Celtics on Friday before traveling to TD Garden to finish the back-to-backs on Saturday.
Earlier this season the Sixers beat the Celtics in Beantown, 106-100, as Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday dominated, combining for 46 points while Turner grabbed 11 boards and Holiday dished 14 assists. That came on the heels of two preseason games, and the playoff series. In other words, these two teams have hooked up quite a bit lately.
"We've played this team, this will be the 11th and 12th time since April," Collins said. "I like [Boston coach] Doc [Rivers], but I just don't want to have that steady diet of socialization with him. We're playing Boston, we have them back-to-back, we're 10-8 and I told our guys they're going to come in here and they're going to have a lot of juice and stuff. We went into their building and we beat them the fifth game of the year. They're trying to figure out who they are, they have a lot of new pieces. Doc has been fiddling around to see who his best lineup is. It's a little bit like what we're trying to do a little bit. Can we get the max out of our guys and what position can we put them in where we can do that? Our guys are going to come out with a lot of energy tomorrow, I know that."
That often has been the case when these two teams meet and the Sixers are in need of a solid, energetic effort after a woeful, 103-88 loss Tuesday to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
"I think when we get on the court with Boston there's definitely a lot of chatter that goes on," said Thaddeus Young. "K.G. [Kevin Garnett] is going to talk, Paul Pierce is going to talk. Those guys are solid veterans, 20,000 points. It's definitely one of those games where you want to get out on the court and play as hard as you can because you know those are top-tier guys and you want to do your best. They're going to be ready and they're going to be focused. They're Boston."
And Boston is becoming a pretty neat rivalry. And these two games could give the Sixers a better idea of who they are and how they match with the Celtics.
"At the end of the day, Boston is Boston," Young said. "We want to go out there and be able to compete and do what we can do against those guys, but we have to stick to our game plan and our focus and we can't let them take us out of that."
The team was very shorthanded Thursday at practice with Kwame Brown out with a stomach virus, Royal Ivey with a groin strain and Nick Young with turf toe. Ivey is out for Friday's game and Doug Collins deemed Young doubtful. Brown is day-to-day but should be OK to play. Young did say he hopes to be ready for Saturday's game, but doesn't know how the toe will feel until he gets on the court.