BOSTON — The 76ers have a chance to do something that rarely happens.
A victory over the Boston Celtics Saturday night would enable them to sweep their longtime Atlantic Division rival in a season series for the first time since the 2000-01 campaign.
The Sixers (31-18) lead 3-0 in the teams’ four-game season series. A win tonight would also mark just the fourth time Philly recorded a season-series sweep of Boston. The other times were 1977-78 season and during the 1949-50 campaign when the Sixers were then called the Syracuse Nationals.
So tonight’s game will be interesting.
It will mark the first time Al Horford played at T.D. Garden since leaving the Celtics to sign a four-year deal for $97 million with the Sixers in July.
He was unable to play in the Sixers’ 115-109 win at Boston on Dec. 12 due to left knee soreness and left hamstring tightness.
However, the Celtics acknowledged Horford that night by showing him on the jumbotron as the fans cheered loudly and gave him a standing ovation.
"Al is a really good person, a really good player and we won a lot of games with being a huge contributor on the court,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said before that game. “You look at his stats and they are almost identical, the percentage, the points, the rebounds. He comes with the same thing every game and that says a lot about him.”
During his three seasons with Boston, Horford averaged 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.2 blocks.
Here’s a look Saturday’s contest at a glance.
12 Tobias Harris SF 6-9 19.4 ppg. 6.8 rpg.
42 Al Horford PF 6-9 12.5 ppg. 6.7 rpg.
21 Joel Embiid C 7-2 23.3 ppg. 12.3 rpg.
18 Shake Milton SG 6-5 6.3 ppg. 1.4 apg.
25 Ben Simmons PG 6-10 16.6 ppg. 8.3 apg.
Coach: Brett Brown (Seventh season, 209-332)
Injury report: Josh Richardson (left hamstring strain) is out.
20 Gordon Hayward F 6-7 17.2 ppg. 6.3 rpg.
0 Jayson Tatum F 6-8 21.5 ppg. 6.9 rpg.
27 Daniel Theis C 6-8 8.1 ppg. 6.2 rpg.
7 Jaylen Brown G 6-6 20.1 ppg. 6.6 rpg.
36 Marcus Smart SG 6-3 12.3 ppg. 3.6 rpg.
Coach: Brad Stevens (Seventh season, 302-237)
Injury report: Enes Kanter (right hip contusion) is questionable; Kemba Walker (left hip soreness) is out; Robert Williams (Bone Edema left hip) is out.
The Celtics own a 260-190 series advantage.
Next man up, the Sixers said.
That was the theme heading into their 109-98 victory over the Boston Celtics on Jan. 9 at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers were without franchise player Joel Embiid, who would have surgery the next night in New York to repair a torn ligament in his left ring finger.
Horford started at center in place of Embiid. Mike Scott started in place of Horford at power forward. They were joined by normal starters Harris, Josh Richardson, and Ben Simmons.
Simmons moved to center when Horford first went to the bench. Two-way player Norvel Pelle was the other reserve center. The three players made the most of their opportunities on a night when shooting guard Josh Richardson finished with a game-high 29 points.
Horford, who played center the last three seasons in Boston, finished with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting — including making 2 of 3 three-pointers. The 13th-year veteran and five-time All-Star also added eight rebounds, six assists, two blocks, and a steal.
Pelle had six points on 3-for-3 shooting to go with four rebounds and two blocks in 12 minutes, 38 seconds.
Simmons had 19 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal. Harris was the other double-figure scorer with 16 points.
Walker paced the Celtics with 26 points. Marcus Smart added 24 points in a reserve role.
Monday: Sixers at Miami Heat, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus, NBA TV
Thursday: Sixers at Milwaukee Bucks, 8 p.m., TNT
Friday: Memphis Grizzlies at Sixers, 7 p.m. NBC Sports Philadelphia
Feb. 9: Chicago Bulls at Sixers, 6 p.m. NBC Sports Philadelphia