Where: The O2 Arena, London
The Philadelphia 76ers are streaking in the right direction again and won their last four games while scoring an average of 114 points, but they are about to run into a defensive wall. The 76ers will try to find a way around that wall and push the winning streak to five in a row when they play the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics across The Atlantic to London on Thursday.
Philadelphia has been off since turning up its own defense and earning its most impressive victory of the season with a 114-78 pounding of the Detroit Pistons on Friday. “We’re getting healthier, and we’re starting to find ourselves again,” 76ers center Joel Embiid told reporters. “It’s good to see, but I think we still got a lot to work on defensively. I think we’ve been taking care of the ball better. We just got to keep playing together.” The Celtics are enjoying their own positive stretch with wins in six straight and showed off their defensive prowess by stopping five shots in the final 7.5 seconds of Saturday’s 87-85 triumph over the Brooklyn Nets. Boston leads the NBA in scoring defense at an average of 97.6 points allowed and defensive field-goal percentage (.429).
TV: 3 p.m. ET, NBATV, NBCS Boston, NBCS Philadelphia
ABOUT THE CELTICS (33-10): Rookie forward Jayson Tatum is going through a bit of a shooting slump at 16-of-43 from the floor over the last four games, but he is still coming through when it counts. Tatum scored Boston’s final five points on Saturday, including a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left, and recorded a season-high six blocks to go with 14 points, six rebounds and three steals. “Those two plays he would have made right when he got here because he’s not scared of the moment, never has been,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters of Tatum. “He’s gotten better in a lot of ways. But ultimately, he has a lot of ability, too.”
ABOUT THE 76ERS (19-19): Philadelphia has its own rookie star in point guard Ben Simmons, who heads to London hot after averaging 22 points in the last three contests. Simmons needed just 23 minutes to collect 19 points and nine assists on Friday and did most of his damage during a 15-0 run early in the game that set the tone. “I thought that at the start, he was on a mission,” 76ers coach Brett Brown told reporters. “He physically was as impressive as I’ve seen him going at bodies and inviting contact. He really came out and set the tempo.”
1. Celtics C Al Horford (calf) sat out Saturday’s win but is expected to play Thursday.
2. Philadelphia SG Justin Anderson (shin) returned from a 23-game absence on Friday and went scoreless in eight minutes off the bench.
3. Boston took the first two meetings this season by an average of 10.5 points.