Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers – TD Garden – Sunday, October 8, 6 pm ET
The preseason is finally here for Boston Celtics fans as the preseason tips off with a game against one of the C’s most bitter rivals, the Philadelphia 76ers, at the TD Garden.
We can finally stop counting down the days, and begin counting down the hours, as we prepare ourselves for some well-needed Boston Celtics basketball.
In anticipation of the game, let’s look at how the two sides might line up.
Projected Boston Celtics Starting Lineup
Will Joe Mazzulla go with a small-ball or double-big lineup against the 76ers? With the physical presence of Joel Embiid being an ever-lingering threat, I could see the dynamic double-big duo of Porzingis and Horford making the starting five.
From that, a question arises; Who will take on the challenge of guarding Embiid?
It will be interesting to see who will take on the main responsibility of guarding the physically imposing, Embiid, throughout the course of the game. Horford has been known to take on this task in the past, to a usually successful outcome. Yes, people question his age, but Horford has been hearing that for the last couple of seasons and if anything, has been looking better than ever.
With Kristaps Porzingis opting to sit out the FIBA World Cup to allow his foot injury to heal and prepare for the upcoming season, there’s a chance we may witness him getting limited minutes on the court. This could potentially lead to the veteran Horford taking on the primary responsibility of guarding Embiid.
In such a scenario, it’s possible that Horford starts at the pivot with Porzingis starting at power forward, to minimize the injury chances at the hands of Embiid. However, it is worth noting that the roles could easily be reversed. Despite the uncertainty, I still anticipate that both players will start together.
This lineup would result in the All-Defensive Derrick White playing a bench role – especially if Harden is to miss the game – and new arrival Jrue Holiday getting his first minutes in Celtics green.
The All-Defensive backcourt of Holiday and White is a stellar alternative option to a double-big lineup, which I’m sure we will see plenty of during the game and throughout the regular season when the matchup calls for it. If James Harden were to make an appearance, starting the two together would definitely be justified.
Boston Celtics predicted starting lineup
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Kristaps Porzingis
C: Al Horford
Projected Philadelphia 76ers Starting Lineup
The big question, when it comes to the starting 5 for the 76ers, is whether or not the disgruntled Harden will make an appearance, but based on what Nick Nurse said to ESPN, it isn’t looking promising. His response to being asked about the likelihood of Harden playing was:
"“I do not know. I think that we still got a number of people that we’re trying to kind of ramp up to get to Sunday, so I don’t know how that’ll go yet.”"
With Harden expected to miss out on the game, the second guard position becomes up for grabs in this preseason matchup. The other candidates for the guard spots include De’Anthony Melton, Patrick Beverley, and the 36-year-old Danny Green. For this game, I’m predicting that Melton will start in Harden’s absence, as I believe he’s the better choice over Beverley and Green.
While Beverley is undoubtedly a valuable veteran with a strong defensive presence, it’s worth noting that Melton also brings a solid defensive skill set to the table. He has maintained an average of 1.4 SPG throughout his career and consistently maintained a positive defensive plus/minus during that time. Given these factors, I believe Melton is the go-to choice in these Harden-less circumstances.
At the 3, I’m going with their new acquisition from the Charlotte Hornets, Kelly Oubre Jr, who would see his first minutes as a Sixer. The other option was the consistent PJ Tucker and yes, he is getting older, but his defensive presence on the court isn’t a reflection of his age.
Even with the Tuckers’ consistency, I predict Oubre will get the nod ahead of his veteran counterpart, and with an average of 20.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, and 1.4 SPG last season, it would be a justified choice.
With the absence of Harden throwing a spanner in the works, and Nurse saying, “We still got a number of people that we’re trying to kind of ramp up to get to Sunday”, picking a starting 5 for the 76ers wasn’t as easy as it should have been.
While Embiid, Maxey, and Harris are locks for making the lineup, a question still remains: Does this starting 5 have what it takes to challenge the new-look Celtics roster?
Philadelphia 76ers predicted starting lineup
PG: Tyrese Maxey
SG: De’Anthony Melton
SF: Kelly Oubre Jr.
PF: Tobias Harris
C: Joel Embiid
While it is just a preseason game, there’s plenty to look out for as the anticipation for the regular season continues to grow.
Will small-ball or double-big be the choice for Mazzulla on Sunday? What kind of impact will the recent acquisitions have in their first game? Will Porzingis get many minutes?
So many questions need to be answered, and that’s what makes preseason games like these so intriguing; offering a chance to witness new strategies and lineups being tested as well as the chance for fresh talents to shine.