FOR one night only London becomes the centre of the NBA universe tonight when the league’s annual transatlantic detour brings the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers across the Pond.
An opportunity for the league to showcase its wares up-close to a European audience. For once, the transplanting of one of the game’s great rivalries which has been reinvigorated once more by the rise of the Sixers following years stuck in the mire.
There will be young talent in abundance on both sides: From Rookie of the Year favourite Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and the still not-yet-fit Markelle Fultz, to the Celtics pairing of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown who have exceeded all expectations in helping Boston to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
The C’s form is promising, with six successive victories coming here, in addition to winning both previous meetings with Philly this season by an average of 10.5 points.
But the 76ers have also taken the upper hand in five of their last six to improve to .500 and the extra energy of the overseas trip could buoy their hopes, said Embiid.
“When I go out there I want to win but I want to put on a show too and I think I’ve been doing a great job of getting the fans into the game,” the centre confirmed.
“If the fans are not into the game it makes me sleepy and usually I don’t have a good game. But when the fans are cheering, and I’m talking s**t, it’s fun. I hope Celtics fans boo me because that makes me raise my game and want to kick other people’s ass.”
Still, Boston’s current streak has included defeats of Minnesota, Cleveland and Houston and only once – against the Nets – did they conceded over 98 points, the mark with which they currently lead the league in points allowed.
While the 76ers have an abundance of offensive talent, they remain a work in progress and so taking under 201.5 total points at 2.85 is a steal.
Mark's Tip (8pm)
- Celtics -5.5 points v the 76ers
- (143-100, Unibet)