Saturday, February 25, 2023

Joel Embiid ahead of tonight's 76ers matchup vs Celtics: 'we're not worried about Boston or Milwaukee'

The Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are scheduled to do battle tonight for the third time this season.

While the Celtics (43-17) have won the first two matchups, they currently only hold a three-game lead over Philly (39-19) and a half-game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks (42-17) as the No.1 seed in the East.

Following a 17-point comeback win over the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday night, All-Star big man Joel Embiid was asked why he believed the Sixers are not included in conversations as one of the best teams in the conference -- which typically only Boston and Milwaukee get mentioned.
"We're not worried about Boston or Milwaukee," Embiid said in postgame comments. "We are worried about ourselves. We can get better every single night. We can take this experience that we had [Thursday] and try to be better."
It was the 76ers' fifth straight victory and seventh over their last 10 games with 22 to go before the playoffs begin. Embiid however, is enjoying another MVP-like season -- averaging 33.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists per contest so far.
"As I would like to not be down 17 points every single time, it's also good to see that we got the quality and we got the right guys to be able to come back from these types of leads," Embiid said. "You learn something from [Thursday] and you move on.

"But as far as worrying other teams, we don't. We just focus on ourselves."
Boston on the other hand, despite having the league's best record and winning eight of their last 10 outings, find themselves finally getting healthy at the right time -- especially with the return of Jaylen Brown (facial fracture) and Marcus Smart (ankle sprain).

In the Celtics 142-138 overtime win over the Indiana Pacers Thursday, it was just the second time this season that newly promoted head coach Joe Mazzulla was able to open the game with the original-five starters from last year's playoff run to the NBA Finals.

Still, with both teams looking as close to 100% health as they ever have 60 games into the 2022-23 campaign, there's a matter of depth that may separate the Celtics and 76ers -- even with superstars like Jayson Tatum (also having a career-year) and Emiid seemingly canceling each other out when it comes to opposing defenses actually having an answer to slowing them down -- Boston is considered the far and above deeper roster.

With Al Horford, Robert Williams, Grant Williams, Blake Griffin, and newly added Mike Muscala, the Celtics have plenty of frontcourt depth to throw at Embiid if need be. In the backcourt, the defensive presence of the regaining DPOY in Smart, Brown, Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon will create a problem for James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and De'Anthony.

With the season series and playoff implications on the line, another victory over the Sixers means the Celtics own any potential tiebreaker if seeding gets even tighter within the next five weeks.

Tip-off between these two division rivals is at 8:30 ET tonight on ABC.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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