December 10, 2023

3 Storylines: 76ers at Celtics, December 20


Photo by Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

The 15-15 76ers face the 15-15 Boston Celtics at the TD Garden, hopefully.

Monday night’s contest is up in the air at the moment, due to COVID-19 involved absences.

If the game does happen, here’s three storylines:

Lots of outages

If the Sixers and Celtics play Monday night in Boston, it won’t be a normal game.

After the Sixers’ scheduled matchup Sunday with the New Orleans Pelicans was postponed following Shake Milton and Andre Drummond being placed into health and safety protocols, they appear set to face Boston Monday at 7:30pm ET barring any further COVID-19 issues with either team. Of course, that’s a significant caution given the rave of positive cases around the NBA over the past week.

As of the 12:30pm injury report, the Sixers had listed six players out. Along with Drummond and Milton, Georges Niang (health and safety protocols), Furkan Korkmaz (non-COVID illness), Jaden Springer (concussion protocol), and Ben Simmons (personal reasons) were sidelined. Joel Embiid (ankle soreness), Danny Green (hip soreness), and Tyrese Maxey (quad contusion) were questionable, as was the case Sunday.

The team called Myles Powell, Aaron Henry, and Paul Reed up to join the club in Boston. That trio played Sunday night in the Delaware Blue Coats’ win over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants at the G League Winter Showcase in Las Vegas.

If none of the Sixers’ questionable players were available, the team would meet the eight-player minimum required to play a game:

  • Seth Curry
  • Tobias Harris
  • Matisse Thybulle
  • Isaiah Joe
  • Charles Bassey
  • Paul Reed
  • Aaron Henry 
  • Myles Powell 

Seven Celtics were listed as out for Monday’s game because of health and safety protocols, including former Sixers Josh Richardson and Al Horford. Boston’s Jayson Tatum (ankle sprain), Romeo Langford (neck pain), and Dennis Schroder (non-COVID illness) were questionable.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Celtics are signing 34-year-old wing CJ Miles via hardship exemption.

In response to the COVID-19 surge, the NBA seems determined to keep the games going, weighing that over health concerns and availability of star talent. ESPN reported Sunday night that the league and NBPA agreed to new rules that not only allow teams to sign a replacement player for each positive COVID-19 case but mandate such signings if a team has two or more positive cases.

The Sixers announced they are signing Tyler Johnson to a 10-day contract. It’s not yet known whether he’ll be active Monday night.

Forgetting about the past

The Celtics defeated the Sixers 88-87 in an ugly game back on December 1.

In that one, the Celts held Embid to a miserable 3-of-17 shooting. That 13 point performance was the 27 year-old’s lowest total of the young season so far. It wasn’t all because of Robert Williams and Enes Freedom’s defense. That was Embiid’s third game back after a three-week bout with a COVID infection which left him admittedly ailing.

Even fully vaccinated players are getting sick, it’s costing them games, and in some cases, impacting their play upon return.

Keeping their hands full

The Sixers figure to have their hands full with Jayson Tatum, that is if he plays as he was listed as questionable with an ankle sprain.

Tatum is averaging 26.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. He’s shooting just 33% from three, but should be able to take advantage of this banged up Sixers group.

His running mate, Jaylen Brown, has heard his name pop up in trade rumors for Simmons.

Brown is averaging 21 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. He’s shooting 38.4% from beyond the arc. But Brown has dealt with a persisting hamstring issue this season. He may have returned too early at one point. He returned to the lineup for three contests but isn’t quite back to 100% just yet.

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