76ers take shot at season sweep of rival Celtics

The Philadelphia 76ers will look to finish off a regular-season sweep of the Celtics as they travel to Boston for a prime-time matchup Saturday night.

The teams will play for the fourth and final time as scheduled, the 76ers winning each of the three previous contests in decisive fashion. Philadelphia enters the game having won six of its last eight.

The Celtics have won five of their last six. Boston is 19-5 at home this season, though it fell 115-109 to the Sixers at TD Garden on Dec. 12.

The three losses to Philadelphia haven’t hurt Boston too much in the Atlantic Division standings, where it still has two-game edge over the 76ers for second place behind the Toronto Raptors. If the season were to end today, the two teams would meet in the first round of the playoffs, with the Celtics as the third seed in the East and the Sixers sixth.

Boston might be at a detriment for the matchup as All-Star guard Kemba Walker was added to the injury report Friday with left knee soreness and is questionable along with reserve big man Enes Kanter (right hip contusion). Walker missed a game with the ailment earlier this month; he was held to 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting in a 119-104 win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night.

That contest featured the return of forward Jayson Tatum from a three-game absence with a groin injury. Tatum, who was named an All-Star as a reserve earlier Thursday, scored 20 points in 24 minutes.

«I thought he started off rusty … I didn’t think we were great early,» said coach Brad Stevens, who kept Tatum on a minutes restriction. «But I thought Jayson looked more like himself towards his last stints.»

For his part, Tatum said being named an All-Star was a «special feeling.» His teammate, Jaylen Brown, meanwhile, said he wasn’t disappointed that he didn’t get the nod, despite having impressive credentials (20.1 points per game, 6.6 rebounds) in his own right.

«A lot of guys having a good year; it is what it is,» said Brown. «Just start gearing up your mind getting ready for the playoffs and stuff like that, building good habits.»

The 76ers also had an All-Star named Thursday as Ben Simmons got his second nod. He’ll join teammate Joel Embiid, the starter at center for the East.

«It’s been a tough week [a reference to the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant], so it’s nice to get a blessing like that,» Simmons said. «I’m just blessed to be in this position.»

Simmons led the way with 31 points, but it wasn’t enough as Philadelphia fell to the lowly Atlanta Hawks 127-117 Thursday night. The loss dropped the 76ers to 9-16 on the road.

«We weren’t focused, defensively,» said Embiid, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds in the game.

The Sixers might received a boost Saturday as big man Al Horford (knee) is probable after missing Thursday’s loss.

–Field Level Media