Last night, Philadelphia defeated Washington by five, 118–113. John Wall did not play for Washington (he’s out for the next two weeks after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection in his sore left knee) and Ben Simmons did, despite being questionable with a sprained ankle.
In fact, Simmons played 40 minutes and put up 31 and 18 while setting a new record for free throws attempted in a quarter with 24 in the fourth. Washington hacked him intentionally for a good three minutes before the two-minute mark. On the night, Simmons went 15-for-29 from the line.
Simmons’ ankle looked ok and, depending on how it responds this morning, he should be good to go in the second leg of a back-to-back in Boston tonight. Joel Embiid, however, will not. He remains on his special schedule that insists he sits out the second night of back-to-backs.
The biggest difference between the Sixers when Embiid is on the floor vs. when he isn’t is their defense. Philadelphia doesn’t have a second rim-protector so it goes from one of the league’s best to Amir Johnson. First, reaction: Kyrie is going to be eager to get to the rim tonight. You have to think twice when Embiid is down there; without him, it’s going to be a green light all night for Irving and company.
Boston comes into this game following its fourth loss of the season on Monday when the Pistons came into the Garden and gained some ground on the best team in the Eastern Conference. Andre Drummond went off and Avery Bradley hounded Irving most the night in his return to Boston. The Celtics started 0–2 but responded to losses two and three with wins the next game. They will expect to do the same tonight.
Boston’s first win of the season came in Philly, where both Simmons and Embiid played but did not play well. They shot 8-for-27 combined, their worst game together in their brief career as teammates. Boston can throw Jaylen Brown on Simmons and Al Horford on Embiid. Those are two of the best defenders in the league so it likely wasn’t just an instance of those two shooting badly. Neither relies much on the jump shot so whenever they are forced to take shots from the outside, you know the defense is disrupting them. Embiid went 0-for-6 from three.
Without Embiid in there, the focus is only going to shift harder onto Simmons, who just played 40 minutes last night on a tender ankle. Boston won’t send him to the free throw line because they know they can stop him another way. With Brown, and maybe Marcus Smart after him all night, Simmons will struggle again in a big Boston win.
Free Pick: Boston -9