Welcome back lovers. We’re off a push of exactly 218 in the Brooklyn/Charlotte game last week and will keep it in the Eastern Conference again this week where we’ve got an Atlantic Division matchup in Boston between the Sixers and Celtics. Both teams have won three in a row and have a lot to be excited about in both the near and long-term future.
As LeBron’s career slowly fades away, the landscape of the Eastern Conference could look a lot like it did throughout the 60s and early 80s when Boston and Philadelphia battled each other year after year for the pennant. That’s because both teams are set up extremely well for long-term success. Philadelphia’s rebuilding process is famous and will be aided by yet another high first-round pick at the end of this season. Boston is in the thick of things for the top seed in the East with a steady young coach and a roster balanced by equally youthful talent. It will also have the best chance to score the number one pick in this summer’s draft courtesy of Mikhail Prokhorov and the Brooklyn Nets.
But before summer arrives, Philly eagerly awaits the coming of Ben Simmons, possibly sometime as early as this month, and getting some answers about Jahlil Okafor. Trading away a talented young player might not sound exciting, but the idea of clearing up a clustered front court while getting assets in return does. Okafor rejoins the team tonight after missing the last two games, which gets me on tonight.
Boston has looked super after starting their West Coast trip with a total letdown in Sacramento. The C’s are off of pretty convincing wins in Portland, Utah and Dallas and now have two more games to win before entering the All-Star Break in as good a position as anyone. That second game looms, however, as they’ll have to travel to Chicago after tonight’s game to get ready to play the Bulls on Thursday night. The weekend break is tantalizingly close, and Brad Stevens’ team will try its best to push through the grueling schedule the NBA has set for it, but blowing out an exuberant Philadelphia team tonight is a lot to ask. Boston doesn’t blow out a whole lot of teams (though its average margin of victory has taken a leap over the last week) and the Sixers have that happy-go-lucky feel about them coming into this one. Dario Saric has put up 20 a game on the three-game winning streak and Ersan Ilyasova is waiting to bust out of a little shooting slump that is bound to take a turn. I’m not sure what Okafor will contribute, but even if he doesn’t give the 76ers much, I like them to cover.
Free Pick: Philly +10.5