Celtics vs 76ers Preview & Free Pick [January 20th 2021]

Boston (8-4) at Philadelphia (9-5)
When: Wednesday, January 20th, 2021
Where: Wells Fargo Center,
Philadelphia, PA
Time: 7:00 ET | TV: ESPN
Opening Odds: Philadelphia -5.5

Two Eastern Conference rivals will battle in the first game of a back-to-back when the Philadelphia 76ers host the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center. Both teams are coming off tough losses and the Sixers are hoping all of their players are cleared to play on Wednesday. COVID-19 contact tracing is still being conducted for the Sixers after a Memphis Grizzlies player tested positive on Saturday following a game with Philadelphia. Philadelphia dropped a 106-104 decision to the Grizzlies and then had to postpone their game with Oklahoma City on Sunday. The Sixers waited a day and flew home where they are scheduled to play Boston Wednesday and Friday. It’s unclear how many players might be out, but All-Star Joel Embiid (knee), who missed the game at Memphis, is expected to play. The Celtics had won five in a row before Sunday’s embarrassing 105-75 loss to New York. Boston was without star Jayson Tatum and won’t play Wednesday due to COVID-19 issues. Tatum hasn’t played since Jan. 8 and is not scheduled to travel with the team to Philadelphia.

The last time these two teams met was in the Orlando bubble in the playoffs and Boston easily swept Philadelphia, winning all four games by an average of 11.7 points. Despite the sweep, Embiid had the game-high in points for all four games. When these rivals meet in Philadelphia, the contests tend to be low scoring, as the under has come in eight of the last nine. The Sixers have played much better at home this season, going 7-1 SU and 5-3 ATS. The over is also 5-3 when Philly plays at home.

The Celtics saw the return of All-Star Kemba Walker from a left knee injury, which cost him the first 11 games this season. The return didn’t go well, as Walker left Sunday’s game in the third quarter with a rib injury, but practiced on Tuesday. Walker shot 3-of-13 from the field in a 20-minute restriction limit and missed seven of his eight attempts from 3-point range. Jaylen Brown led the team with 25 points, six rebounds and three assists in Sunday’s loss to the Knicks. The only other Boston player to hit double-digit points was Marcus Smart (10), as Boston was held to a season-low in points. Brown is averaging 23.5 points over his last four games and 25.8 points per game on the season. Boston will host Cleveland on Sunday after Friday’s second game in Philadelphia.

The Sixers are 0-3 without Embiid this season, but even he couldn’t help in Saturday’s loss to the Grizzlies. Philly got 28 points from Shake Milton but couldn’t overcome 22 turnovers. Tobias Harris played well, finishing with 21 points, but committed five of those turnovers. Ben Simmons was one assist shy of a triple-double (11 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists) and plays a team-high 33 minutes per game. Although it hasn’t been fully confirmed, Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers says he does expect Embiid to return on Wednesday. He’s averaging 25 points per game, but he has been in and out of the lineup with back and knee soreness. After the Sixers play Boston again on Friday, they will travel to Detroit for two games with the Pistons.

I fully expect Boston to rebound from their blowout loss to New York and keep this one close. Walker will also be better in his second game. The Celtics are an incredible 22-6 ATS in their last 28 games as a road underdog.

Check out who Bobby Babowski has on his Free NBA Picks page for today.

Pick: Celtics +5.5