CAMDEN, NJ — The Philadelphia 76ers don’t have much time to mourn their recent loss to the New York Knicks. A huge matchup with the Boston Celtics awaits them. It’s the perfect chance for the Sixers to prove that their recent stretch of success is more than just beating up on inferior teams.
The Celtics have the best net rating in the NBA thanks to being top-five on both sides of the ball. Georges Niang, a Massachusetts native who will have family in attendance at TD Garden, knows that this game means something for the Sixers.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Niang said when asked if the Sixers have the chance to secure a statement win. “You’re playing the number one team in the Eastern Conference…So, of course, this is a statement game. Sure, I could sit here and be like, ‘Ah, this is like any other game.’ But obviously, it’s a nationally televised game. We’re focused on what we have to do to beat the best team that’s in our conference.”
The Sixers and Celtics’ last matchup came on the very first game of the regular season. Boston dominated the game and forced Joel Embiid into a poor performance. Although Marcus Smart is likely going to be out as he continues to rehab an ankle sprain, All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown should be ready to go.
“Those guys are so good, the way they score on all three levels,” De’Anthony Melton said of Boston’s stellar duo. “We’re gonna need all of it. We can’t be getting blown by. [At the] same time, we’re gonna need rim protection. They’re midrange shooters, too…Just constantly having somebody on them, being physical, communicating. The biggest thing is physicality with them.”
With the exception of some rough losses, the Sixers have been cruising recently thanks to the growing chemistry with Embiid and James Harden. Although their recent victory over the Denver Nuggets was a huge test that they passed, taking down the Celtics at home would really suggest that this Philly team is on a higher level than in years past.
“We understand how good Boston is and we understand that they can come out strong,” Melton said. “So, we gotta go out there, play hard and understand that this could be a potentially be a conference finals game.”