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Sixers face Celtics in season opener tonight

Nick Lenhart, Reporter

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The NBA regular season is officially upon us with tip-off beginning October 16th. The first game of the 2018-19 season is none other than the historical matchup of the Philadelphia 76ers versus the Boston Celtics. Although this rivalry began in the 1960s, it has stood the test of time.

The rivalry started with the two giants of their time in Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, and has lived to see the soaring dunks of Julius “Dr.J” Erving, the silky smooth jump shot of Larry Bird as well as the famous calling of “Havlicek stole the ball!”  Historically speaking the Celtics have gotten the best of the Sixers. The all time record for these two would be 323-312 in favor of the Celtics. These two have the most meetings between two franchises in NBA playoff history, with 21 total series, the Celtics winning 14 and the Sixers winning 7.

As of recent years the rivalry was there but seemed to be in a lull, as the Celtics proved to be too much for the tanking Sixer teams of the past. Last season proved to be a different narrative. The spark was reignited with both teams proving they are forces to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference and will be for years to come.

The Sixers are coming into the season coming off of a hot 3-1 preseason record. Philly played well in their two home games winning dominantly and dazzled fans in China. Joel Embiid proved that he can be a serious contender for MVP and defensive player of the year. However, there is other news that has fans excited. Head coach Brett Brown made the announcement that Markelle Fultz will be inserted into the starting lineup, taking the place of sharpshooter JJ Redick. JJ has said that he is fine with the move to the bench as he just wants “ what is best for the team”.

Markelle will have big shoes to fill as last years starting lineup had the best net rating in the entire league. The starting lineup for the opening game has been announced and will feature Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Joel Embiid.  

The Celtics, finishing last season with the fourth best record in the entire league, showed how successful a team with multiple draft lottery picks can blend with elite veterans. The team acquired NBA all-star and ball handling virtuoso Kyrie Irving in a trade with the Cavaliers, and added fellow all-star wing shooter Gordon Hayward through free agency, to pair with yet another all-star in fundamental big man Al Horford.

However, even though Boston had a very successful season, it did not go as imagined. Within the first six minutes of the season opener Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome injury when he landed awkwardly on his left ankle, resulting in a fractured tibia and a dislocated left ankle. The injury caused Hayward to miss the entire season. As if things could not get any worse, this was not the end of the injury bug for Boston either. Around April it was announced that the team would lose their other big offseason acquisition in Kyrie Irving to a knee injury.

Although the team had two elite level talents lost for what was looking to be a promising playoff run, they did not shy away from the adversary. Young talents such as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Smart stepped into new more important roles, helping fuel a strong playoff run. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the rivalry had a chance to be seen.

However, the series was one sided, as the Celtics easily handled Philly 4-1. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics faced off against a LeBron carried Cavaliers team, and dragged the series to seven games. In the final game of the series, LeBron put a struggling Cleveland team on his back and carried them to victory scoring 39 points with 15 rebounds and 9 assists, leaving the Celtics in a “what if” scenario, considering that at full strength they may have made their first finals appearance since 2010.

This season could turn out to be promising for Philadelphia and Boston as LeBron has moved to LA and put on the purple and gold Lakers jersey. Also, the Raptors fired coach of the year Dwane Casey, and traded Demar Derozan to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard. If the Raptors can’t seem to remain the powerhouse that they once were, the Celtics and Sixers could both end up making long runs into the playoffs and possibly even being able to contend for an NBA championship.  

 

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Sixers face Celtics in season opener tonight