In three meetings this season, the Boston Celtics have looked thoroughly outmatched by the Philadelphia 76ers, losing each time they’ve met.
With the final meeting of the regular season on the line Saturday night, Boston is looking to avoid being swept in the season series but will have to do so without their top scorer.
Point guard Kemba Walker, who dealt with a knee injury earlier in the season, is out once again for at least the next two games, including Saturday. Walker isn’t the only Celtics player sidelined, as centers Enes Kanter and Robert Williams remain out with hip injuries.
The Celtics may struggle to match the Sixers’ interior game with Joel Embiid and old friend Al Horford both causing problems in the low post during the prior three matchups. Kanter is missing his fourth straight game while Williams remains sidelined as he has been for several weeks, though he too is closing in on a return.
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Celtics Lineup vs Sixers
Boston can make up for Walker’s absence by inserting Marcus Smart into the mix, though they’ll have to get contributions from everyone offensively. As for Kanter and Williams still being out, it means Vincent Poirier will likely play some bench minutes along with Grant Williams.
Here’s how Boston could look come tip-off:
C – Daniel Theis
PF – Gordon Hayward
SF – Jayson Tatum
SG – Jaylen Brown
PG – Marcus Smart
For the most part, the Celtics rotation won’t be too different from normal. Brad Wanamaker will get more minutes off the bench, and that’s much deserved given his contributions over the past few weeks.
Another guard who may see some additional minutes is Romeo Langford. He’s battled injuries throughout his rookie season, but his length and speed could pose a problem for the Sixers.
Off the Bench
Grant Williams and Semi Ojeleye have become regulars off the bench this season, contributing in different ways.
Williams has tremendous court awareness and the Celtics value him for the little things he’s able to accomplish like setting screens or rolling to the post. His shooting has gradually improved as well and he is turning into a real offensive asset for Boston as a result.
As for Ojeleye, he’s shown flashes of being a good shooter but most of his worth comes from playing defense. He guarded Giannis Antetokounmpo in the playoffs last season and can help contain Joel Embiid with Kanter available on Saturday.
Another forward presence is Javonte Green, who continues to prove Brad Stevens right for naming him to the roster out of the preseason. Green was injured for the last two games, but has appeared in 37 games for Boston in 2019-20, averaging just 9.1 minutes per game scoring 2.4 points.
Poirier, Wanamaker, and Langford could also see time off the bench, albeit in limited minutes. But a physical presence like Poirier may be useful in helping contain Embiid and Horford, leaving a potential for a big night defensively for the first-year center.