Celtics-Sixers preview: Fighting from the bottom

Celtics-Sixers preview: Fighting from the bottom
January 29, 2014, 11:15 am
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BOSTON — Like the Celtics, Philadelphia has had its share of struggles this season which comes as a surprise to no one. When the season began, both were considered front-runners for the worst record in the NBA.

And as they face off tonight for the first time this season, that's exactly where each team stands.

Boston (15-32) comes in having lost three in a row and 15 of its last 17 games. Philadelphia limps in having also lost three in a row and 10 of its last 12.

"Philly's kind of in the same boat as us," said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. "We're both really struggling. We were going into the season expected to do that."

Despite their struggles, Stevens says he has been impressed with the hustle and effort displayed by the Sixers in what has been a challenging first season for him in the NBA.

"They're one of the harder working teams around," Stevens said. "If we play like we did (Tuesday night in New York), it won't be pretty."

Here are some other keys in tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Philadelphia will try and get out in transition as often as possible which challenges every team's transition defense. Establishing the pace will be critical to Boston's chances of winning.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jeff Green vs. Evan Turner

Since scoring a season-high 39 points at Washington, Jeff Green has scored a total of just 38 points in the three games since then. He's facing a player in Evan Turner whose ability to score in bunches has lately been a recipe for success. In the last seven games in which he scored 20 or more points, the Sixers have won six of those games.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo (rest) is questionable to play tonight in the second of back-to-back games for the Celtics. Getting back into basketball shape seems to be progressing quite well for Rondo. The same cannot be said for his shooting which is currently at a career-lows both from the field (27.9 percent) and from three-point range (23.1 percent) this season.

STAT TO TRACK: This is one of those games where the Celtics should get off to a fast start and take a comfortable lead going into the second quarter. Among Philadelphia's many struggles this season, has been their first-quarter defense which is giving up a league-high 29.1 points per game in the quarter. Meanwhile, Boston opponents are averaging 23.6 points which is the fifth-fewest points allowed in the first quarter this season.