BOSTON – Four days after opening up their preseason with a victory, the new-look Boston Celtics will return to the court at 7 p.m. tonight in Philadelphia.
Boston will be seeking a 2-0 record during the preseason, while the 76ers are searching for their first victory.
The Celtics, featuring four new starters compared to last season, played well Monday night as they downed the Charlotte Hornets by a score of 94-82. The contest marked the debut of the team’s two new stars, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
Irving played 19 minutes and totaled nine points, four rebounds and three assists. Hayward, meanwhile, logged five points and five rebounds during 17 minutes of action.
While the team’s starting unit, which included newcomer Aron Baynes (10 points, five rebounds), played well, the most exciting ingredient of the victory was Boston’s overall defense. The Celtics limited Charlotte to only 37.5 percent shooting from the floor while forcing 19 turnovers.
“We had a couple of sequences where everyone had their arms up and you could just tell that Charlotte couldn’t go anywhere,” Marcus Smart said the day after the victory. “And they looked at it and just seemed baffled by it.”
Philadelphia could not make a similar claim after its 110-89 loss Wednesday night at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. The Sixers allowed Memphis to shoot 46.7 percent from the field and to score 50 points in the paint.
Part of Philadelphia’s defensive problem that night was that Joel Embiid, the team’s often-injured yet incredibly-talented 7-foot center, was not available to play. Embiid is still recovering from knee surgery that repaired a torn meniscus back in March.
Embiid returned to 5-on-5 drills at Philadelphia’s practice Thursday, but he is not expected to participate in tonight’s preseason tilt. However, the Sixers’ other top young stars, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, will play.
Simmons and Fultz each made their NBA preseason debuts Wednesday night, leaving mixed reviews. Simmons, a 6-foot-10 point-forward, did log nine assists and seven rebounds during only 22 minutes of action, but he struggled to put the ball through the basket, making only two of his eight shots from the field. Fultz, meanwhile, struggled even more so while attempting to tally points; he shot just 2-for-13 from the field and did not connect on any of his three 3-point attempts.
While the Philly duo did not excel enough to lead its team to victory, there is plenty to be excited about in Sixersland. Not quite as much to be excited about as in Celtics Nation, however.
Boston is expected to be the cream of the crop in the Atlantic Division and quite possibly in the Eastern Conference. The C’s boast multiple All-Stars and have infused the team with two No. 3 overall picks in Jaylen Brown, who started the preseason opener, and Jayson Tatum.
These two teams should be battling it out for years to come, and tonight will be everyone’s first opportunity to see how the rosters match up at near-full health.