Celtics - Sixers preview: 'Tanks' for playing

Celtics - Sixers preview: 'Tanks' for playing
April 4, 2014, 1:00 pm
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(USA Today Sports Images)

BOSTON — There's no better way to get an NBA general manager to put on his bitter beer face than to accuse his team of tanking games.

Tonight's Boston-Philadelphia matchup features a pair of teams who on varying levels, have been accused of this.

And that's why this matchup leaves the fan bases of both franchises somewhat conflicted.

They want their teams to do well, obviously.

But considering where these teams are record-wise, winning is kind of like losing when you look at the big picture.

Both teams are headed for the loser's lounge - better known as the NBA lottery - this season.

So losing games only increases their growing ping-pong ball collection which they hope ultimately leads to the No. 1 overall pick in June's NBA draft.

The fact that both teams are near the bottom of the standings this season comes as no surprise.

With Rajon Rondo (torn ACL) not returning to the floor until January, coupled with Boston trading away Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce this past summer, everyone anticipated this would be a rough season for Boston.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said on more than one occasion that getting to the playoffs this season was not a goal they targeted.

Mission accomplished.

Boston (23-52) comes in having lost six in a row which is the longest current losing streak. But as bad as the Celtics have been, the Sixers have been worse - much worse.

Not only in terms of their 16-59 record, but also when you look at the product that they put on the floor.

Philadelphia strung together 26 straight losses which tied the longest losing streak in NBA history, making them the laughingstock of the league.

And while the Celtics know they are in no position to look past any opponent, there's no question this will be their best shot at snapping their losing skid.

Celtics guard Jerryd Bayless said the best thing for the team to do going forward, is to "just play better."

He added, "I think (tonight's game) is another opportunity. We just have to take advantage of it."

And if they are to do that, is that necessarily a good thing in the grand scheme of things?

Here are more keys to tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Forcing Philadelphia to play more half court defense will make this game go a lot smoother for the Celtics. It is well documented that the Sixers are all about scoring this season which has contributed to them being so bad at the other end of the floor.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jeff Green vs. Hollis Thompson

This has to be a position the Celtics exploit early and often as these two former Georgetown Hoyas square off. And Green is due for a big game, having averaged just 12 points in Boston's last five games. Meanwhile, Thompson has made the most of his few scoring opportunities of late. In Philadelphia's last five games, he has shot 55.6 percent from the field while averaging 8.4 points per game.


He really is getting better and better with time. He didn't have a big game at Washington (13 points, seven rebounds, six assists with seven turnovers), but he did a couple things like finishing around the basket, that we have seen very little of since his comeback. With him not playing tomorrow in Detroit (he does not play in the second game of back-to-backs this season), look for him to play major minutes tonight.

STAT TO TRACK:  The Celtics' starting five should really set the tone. Philadelphia is dead-last in points allowed in the first (28.9) and third (27.9) quarters, respectively.