Two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference are set to square off at TD Garden on Thursday night, in what figures to be one of the most entertaining games of the NBA season so far.
The (18-7) Philadelphia 76ers can climb into first place in the Atlantic division with a win over the (17-6) Boston Celtics, but it won’t be easy. After all, the Celtics are undefeated at home this year, with a 10-0 record, while the Sixers are an unimpressive 5-7 on the road. That’s probably why the Celtics are a 1.5-point favorite in the game, according to some of the industry leaders for basketball betting odds, so if you like to bet on basketball, you’re in luck with this primetime matchup.

Dec 13, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) and center Joel Embiid (21) slap hands during the fourth quarter of a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a revenge game of sorts, as the last time these two rivals met, the Sixers won, 107-93. Not only that, they come into this game riding a ton of confidence, and a lot of momentum, being that they’ve won 11 of their last 13 games — although it should be noted that the majority of those were at home in the friendly confines of Wells Fargo Center. On the road is where the Sixers have been vulnerable, and the Celtics will look to take advantage of that. Unfortunately for them, they come into the game banged up, as a number of their top players are dealing with injuries. Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams III and Romeo Langford are all listed as questionable to play in the game, while the Sixers are virtually all healthy, as only Zhaire Smith is slated to miss the game with a leg injury. The health of Joel Embiid, however, is always worth monitoring, given how often he’s been injured, or has had to deal with conditioning issues. He is, however, coming off a 22-point, 10-rebound performance in the team’s most recent game against the Nuggets. It marked his 12th double-double already this season, and showed just how dominant he can be when at the top of his game.

Dec 18, 2019; Dallas, TX, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) celebrates during the second half against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

For the Celtics, it’s been mostly about Kemba Walker this year, as he was brought in to replace Kyrie Irving, and has done exactly that — and then some. He’s averaging 22.8 points, 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds this season, while also getting it done on the defensive end of the floor, with 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks as well. Not only that, he’s shooting a ridiculous 40.8 percent from three-point range, so opponents have to respect his outside shot, as well as his dribble-drive, and ability to score at the rim.
The interesting storyline heading into this matchup is that the bad blood between these teams continues to heat up with each passing year, and it’s clear these division rivals are exactly that — rivals. Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown recently threw some shade at Sixers young star Ben Simmons just a few days ago, in revealing what teammate Grant Williams’ nickname has been. Williams has struggled immensely in shooting three-pointers this season, so Brown jokingly said they’ve been calling him “Ben Simmons.” Don’t think that the Sixers didn’t take note of that, and won’t be out to send a message to the Celtics on Thursday night, so make sure to tune in and watch.

Dec 18, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) looks on during the fourth quarter against the Miami Heatat Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports