It’s hard to imagine a worse start to the season for the revamped Boston Celtics, who aim for their first win when they visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday. After losing free-agent signee Gordon Hayward to a gruesome leg injury minutes into their season-opening loss at Cleveland, the Celtics returned to TD Garden and dropped their home opener Wednesday night against Milwaukee.
Kyrie Irving was just 7-for-25 from the floor in his debut in Boston and was part of a crew that was dominated down the stretch in the 108-100 loss. “The reliance comes on the vets on this team and it trickles all the way down to the 15th guy,” Irving told reporters. “We gotta ... remain confident, unwavering in our approach, and we’ll be fine.” While the Celtics very well could tumble from the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference they earned last season, the 76ers are hoping to climb the ladder and showed some promise in a 120-115 loss at Washington on Wednesday. Ben Simmons finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for Philadelphia in his first career game after missing last season due to foot surgery.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN Boston, NBCSN Philadelphia
ABOUT THE CELTICS (0-2): Marcus Smart replaced Hayward in the starting lineup and finished with 12 points and three of Boston’s 12 steals against Milwaukee. Backup Terry Rozier added a pair of thefts to go along with 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a quality 27-minute showing, although he was quite aware of the potential growing pains for a roster that has undergone such a complete makeover. “We messed up on a lot of plays,” Rozier told the media. “That can’t happen. Like (coach Brad Stevens) said after the game: We’re professionals, so we better learn the plays or we won’t play.”
ABOUT THE 76ERS (0-1): Center Joel Embiid said he was going to get around 16 minutes in the opener as he returns from a knee ailment, but the big man saw 27 minutes of action and delivered with 18 points and 13 boards. “I think the plan is just get out there, play, and see how I feel,” he told reporters. “There’s gonna be some games I‘m going to be sore, and I‘m going to be tired. That’s where they’re going to have to take me out. But we’ve gotta stop calling it a minutes restriction.” All five starters scored in double figures for Philadelphia in the opener and rookie Markelle Fultz was the lone reserve to do so with 10 points in 18 minutes.
1. SF Robert Covington led the Sixers in their opener with 29 points while making 7-of-11 3-pointers.
2. Philadelphia made 16 fewer free throws than Washington and Boston has hit 16 fewer than its opponents on the season.
3. Celtics rookie SF Jayson Tatum is averaging 11 points and 9.5 rebounds through the first two games.
PREDICTION: 76ers 114, Celtics 109