The Philadelphia 76ers made significant improvements at last week's trade deadline and have since played like a team that is headed in the right direction. The Boston Celtics, who visit the 76ers on Tuesday, failed to make any upgrades prior to the deadline and are looking like a team that needed a shake-up.
After a quiet deadline day last Thursday, the Celtics lost on a buzzer-beater to the Los Angeles Lakers and then blew a 28-point lead before falling to the Los Angeles Clippers 123-112 on Saturday in a demoralizing defeat. "I mean, for me, it's not really about the loss," forward Marcus Morris told reporters in an eye-opening session after the game. "It's about the attitude that we're playing with. Guys are hanging their head. It's just not fun, it's not fun. We're not competing at a high level. Even when we're winning it's still not fun. I just don't see the joy in the game." The sour note cast by Morris stands in stark contrast to what's going on in Philadelphia, where the Sixers are coming off impressive wins over the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers since making a series of deadline moves. Joel Embiid went off for 37 points and 14 rebounds in Sunday's 143-120 rout of the Lakers as Philadelphia moved one game ahead of Boston for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT LINE: 76ers -6.5
ABOUT THE CELTICS (35-21): Saturday's collapse began late in the first half after All-Star guard Kyrie Irving suffered a sprained knee that has him day-to-day entering the week. Gordon Hayward had a team-high 19 points off the bench while Irving's fellow starters combined to shooting 14-for-42 from the floor without their leader. "There's no excuses," coach Brad Stevens told reporters of the Irving injury. "Those things happen and we all have to pick up for that. So, I'll go back and figure out what I can do better, what we can do better, and we'll go from there."
ABOUT THE 76ERS (36-20): Embiid was 12-for-16 from the floor in Sunday's win while newly acquired forward Tobias Harris had 22 points on 9-of-14 in his second game with the team. Point guard Ben Simmons contributed seven assists and stunned the masses with a rare 3-point attempt that rattled in and out, potentially signalling an addition to the dynamic All-Star's repertoire. "I think just being more aggressive, taking more open shots and just trying to grow my game in that way," Simmons, who is 0-for-14 in his career beyond the arc, told reporters. "I think I'm getting there. It just takes time, but I'm going to get there."
1. The Celtics took the first two meetings -- both at home. Irving scored 40 points in an overtime triumph against the Sixers on Christmas Day.
2. Hayward averages 9.4 points while shooting 25.9 percent from 3-point distance on the road, compared to 11.8 on 36.4 percent at home.
3. Sixers PG T.J. McConnell is 8-for-8 from the floor with zero turnovers in 33 minutes over his last two games.
PREDICTION: 76ers 111, Celtics 105 Bet Now
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