Could the Celtics lack of depth while trying to work a host of new faces into their system finally be catching up with them? Friday night may provide the clearest answer yet.
On the heels of an ugly home loss to the Clippers, the Celts travel down I-95 South to face their long time division rivals, the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers are one of the NBA's most improved and most surprising teams, a young and athetic group that could give a bunch that is still jelling like the C's a difficult time. Boston was playing with fire in its previous handful of games prior to the Clippers loss, blowing huge leads against inferior competition like Phoenix and Golden State before finally hanging on, and being taken to the wire by a Milwaukee squad that ranks among the league's worst in most offensive categories. The Celtics sleepwalked through a flat first half against the Clippers, falling behind by as many as 23 before turning on the jets and getting as close as three only to drop the game.
The Celts got next to nothing out of their bench in that one, getting just 12 points, four rebounds and three assists from their reserves. They've still won five out of six, but their biggest staple, team defense, has betrayed them of late as well. They are still allowing just 91.9 points per game, second fewest in the league. But they've given up 100-plus in four of their last five.
The Sixers, on the other hand, have been somewhat revelatory. After starting the season 3-13, Philly is 30-18, including 16-6 since Jan. 21. The Sixers are coming off an overtime loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday night which snapped a three-game win streak. They lost their previous two meetings with the Celts earlier this season, both of which were played in December, by a combined five points. They haven't beaten the C's in Philly since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce in Boston for the 2007-2008 season and are just 2-12 against the Celts' Big Three.
The Celtics (46-16) look to get back on the winning track in Philadelphia against the 76ers (33-31) at 7 p.m. EST, on Comcast Sports Net New England.