Preview: Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers

The Boston Celtics enter on a four game losing streak but get a chance to end that against one of the worst teams in the league

The Boston Celtics have been a disaster since Jae Crowder went down with a high ankle sprain. The Philadelphia 76ers know that feeling as they have gone through that over the past couple of seasons. Both teams enter the game on a four game losing streak, although that’s almost like a win for the Sixers.

The 76ers are a terrible 9-60 and are clearly the favorites to win the Ben Simmons sweepstakes. The Celtics have dropped to fifth in the Eastern Conference this past week, owning a 39-30 record.

Along with Crowder, Jonas Jerebko remains out for the Celtics, although it’s probably better to get everyone healthy leading up to the playoffs.

Robert Covington remains out for Philadelphia, as well as rookie phenom Jahlil Okafor who is out for the season due to a knee injury.

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The Celtics have not been able to find their footing and it’s shown over the past three and a half games. They look lost and really don’t look like they could be competitive in the playoffs without Crowder. When a key player goes down, the best player on the team has to step up, and that’s Isaiah Thomas.

Thomas has done everything you could ask from him this season, but he needs to take his game to the next level with the loss of Boston’s starting small forward.

Over the past three games, Thomas has averaged 23.3 points, four assists, 3.7 rebounds, and one steal per game. While Thomas has been able to increase his scoring production with Crowder out, he has failed to set up his teammates at the same rate. Boston has shot poorly in all three games, less than 45 percent from the field in all three games, although, Thomas needs to continue to try to set up his teammates.

If Thomas isn’t able to get his teammates involved then the struggles will continue to happen. Boston has had a revolving door with young players trying to figure out which one deserves minutes, but getting them involved will not only help you figure out who’s ready for the extra minutes, but also help their development.

Isaiah Thomas is the point guard and leader of the team, getting out in transition will only help this team’s offense.

With Okafor out, Nerlens Noel is the lone young, big man for the 76ers. He has developed nicely over the past two seasons, averaging 11.3 points, eight rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game this season. He’s a defensive anchor down low, one reason Philadelphia loves him so much. His offense has also been coming along nicely as well, and being so bad he has gotten a huge role right off the bat.

It’s no secret that the Celtics’ front court is their weakness, and they may have trouble guarding Noel. While he doesn’t have great moves down low, at 6’11” he is a nightmare for any undersized teams. He is very athletic, which makes him perfect for pick-and-roll situations, and is nifty around the basket.

Not to mention that he is already one of the best defensive big men in the league. Jared Sullinger will have to work extra hard for his points on Sunday night, although getting Noel away from the basket would benefit the Celtics a lot.

Both teams have struggles as of late, but Philadelphia is on another whole level of bad. They have some nice pieces for the future, but two of them are hurt. There’s a reason they have only won nine games this season, and they’re happy with that.

Being in the kind of funk the Celtics are in, and following a rough patch of games, facing a team like the 76ers will be a relief. The 76ers, despite their record, can play teams tough. The last thing Boston wants is to relax too much and blow a game that they should win with ease. These are the games teams love when competing for playoff seeding.