Celtics Riding High Into Regular Season’s Final Visit to Struggling Philadelphia

Celtics Riding High Into Regular Season's Final Visit to Struggling Philadelphia The fatigued Celtics were in bad shape earlier this week and were coming off a baffling loss to the NBA-worst Nets. Now, just two games later, they've got an extra hop to their step.

A pair of impressive wins have rejuvenated the C's — a close one on the road at Detroit followed by a blowout of the Bobcats at the Garden — and they're ready to go on a run this March. They're facing a Sixers team now that's headed in the opposite direction, losing four straight games and seven of their last nine.

When and Where

Friday, March 5, 7 p.m. ET (CSNE)
Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, Pa.

Records

Celtics (38-21, First place in Atlantic Division)
Sixers (22-38, Fourth place in Atlantic Division)

Head to Head

The last time these two teams met was a game the Celtics would rather forget. The Sixers came to the TD Garden on Dec. 18 to face a Celtics team riding an 11-game winning streak, and they snapped that streak when an Elton Brand tip-in on the final possession made it 98-97. Before that, though, the Celtics were 2-0 against the Sixers this season, and dating back to the  fall of 2007, Boston is 9-2 against Philly.

Skinny

With a strong nucleus of Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand, the Sixers were counting on a return to the playoffs this season. They were there last year, and they even gave the eventual East champion Magic a run for their money. But Brand has been hurt, Iguodala has been streaky, and the supporting cast around the two has been a total mess. It's a disappointing season for a Sixers team that expected more. Tenth place in the East wasn't what Eddie Jordan had in mind this year.

Starting Lineups

Celtics
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Kendrick Perkins

76ers
Point guard: Jrue Holiday
Shooting guard: Louis Williams
Small forward: Andre Iguodala
Power forward: Thaddeus Young
Center: Samuel Dalembert

Stat Sheet

Celtics
The Celtics are 21-10 on the road, second-best in the NBA trailing only the 22-10 Cavaliers.

They are shooting 48.4 percent as a team, fourth in the NBA behind Utah, Cleveland and Phoenix.

Rajon Rondo has had at least one steal in 16 consecutive games.

Kendrick Perkins
remains on track to average double-digit scoring for the first time in his career, with 10.9 points per game entering Friday night's game.

Paul Pierce
's 27 points against the Bobcats on Wednesday night were more than he had scored in any game in February.

Kevin Garnett has averaged 19.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists against the Sixers in his career.

Ray Allen
has 20.7 points per game against them.

Sixers

The Sixers are 10-22 this season within the Eastern Conference.

They rank fourth in the NBA in steals, behind the Warriors, Nuggets and Celtics.

Andre Iguodala
has 109 steals this season, tied with Stephen Jackson for fifth in the NBA.

Samuel Dalembert
has 125 blocks, tied with Brendan Haywood for fourth in the league.

Louis Williams
had a game-high 30 points in the Sixers' 112-93 loss to the Hawks on Wednesday night. Williams has scored in double figures in seven straight games.

Jrue Holiday is top-10 among NBA rookies in assists per game (2.8) and steals per game (0.8).

Thaddeus Young
is averaging career highs in rebounds per game (5.3) and assists per game (1.5).

Black and Blue

Celtics
Kendrick Perkins returned Wednesday night after missing Tuesday due to flu-like symptoms. He recorded eight points and two rebounds in limited minutes.

Sixers
Elton Brand
is out with right Achilles tendinitis.

Marreese Speights left Wednesday's game with a left knee injury and his status for Friday is in doubt.

Francisco Elson underwent hernia surgery in early February and is still missing in action.

This Date in Celtics History

In 1985, Kevin McHale followed up his team record-setting 56-point performance set two days earlier with a 42-point game at Madison Square Garden. This gave McHale another team record: 98 consecutive games with at least one point. The Celtics beat the Knicks on the road, 110-102.

Overheard

"They had a situation where Michael feels he can really earn a role. They told me they liked his ability to shoot and defend — the same role as he’s had in San Antonio for all these years. He’s a seasoned vet, and he brings all of these things to a very good team."
Henry Thomas, agent to Celtics newcomer Michael Finley, in Friday's Boston Herald.

Press Box

Celtics
The C's land Michael Finley.

Nate Robinson can do it all.

Paul Pierce clashes with Stephen Jackson.

Sixers
The Sixers couldn't handle the Hawks.

The Princeton offense backfires.

Allen Iverson battles personal troubles.

NBA

Thanks for the memories, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.

Carmelo Anthony outshines Kevin Durant.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas plans a comeback to Cleveland.

Outlook

The Celtics are playing this week with a renewed sense of confidence — perhaps this comes naturally when your roster is healthy and your rotation rested. This is the strongest we've seen the Celtics this calendar year and they're starting to look like the C's that jumped out to the best record in the NBA earlier this season. If the C's can get their third straight win in Philadelphia, they'll be well on their way to re-establishing their presence as a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference.

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