Celtics-76ers Preview

Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday lead the Eastern Conference in

assists and had no trouble racking them up the last time they

met.

The point guards will match up twice this weekend when Rondo’s

Boston Celtics and Holiday’s 76ers begin a home-and-home set at the

Wells Fargo Center on Friday night.

Boston’s Rondo leads the NBA with 12.8 assists per game while

Holiday is averaging 9.3.

Philadelphia won 106-100 in the first meeting between these

teams Nov. 9 at Boston that ended a six-game win streak by the home

team in this series. Holiday had 21 points and 14 assists while

Rondo finished with 14 points and matched a season high with 20

assists.

If there was an edge for the 76ers, it was the play of Holiday’s

backcourt mate Evan Turner, who had team highs of 25 points and 11

boards. Rondo’s backcourt mate at the time was Courtney Lee, who

scored six points.

The 76ers have also won five of their last six at home against

the Celtics, including playoffs.

“They must have great confidence against us,” Boston coach Doc

Rivers said. “So those are going to be hard games. I do like it,

especially in this stretch, because I think we’ve started to play a

little bit better. We’ve struggled playing in Philly so I love all

the bad stuff because that’s good the way I look at it in my

demented way.”

These Atlantic Division rivals have identical 10-8 records as

they sit in third place behind New York and Brooklyn. They also

meet Saturday at the TD Garden.

Rondo returned Wednesday from a two-game suspension for a fight

last week against the Nets and had 17 points and 11 assists in a

104-94 victory over Minnesota. Boston split the games without

him.

“Having Rondo back was big for us,” Kevin Garnett said. “I

thought he brought a lot of good energy. We were excited that he

was back, probably fed off of that.”

Garnett had 18 points and 10 rebounds for his fifth

double-double and Paul Pierce added 18 points as all five starters

scored in double figures.

Garnett was also called upon to battle Kevin Love, who had 19

points and 13 rebounds but made just 6 of 15 shots.

The Boston center will be up against Philadelphia’s Lavoy Allen

and Spencer Hawes, who share the bulk of their team’s minutes in

the pivot.

Sixers coach Doug Collins said after Thursday’s practice that he

wants to see more from Hawes, calling him “a big part of our team.”

Hawes had eight points and six rebounds in the first meeting.

“I just showed our guys the Boston tape of the last game we

played and it was the Spencer Hawes highlight show,” Collins said.

“I mean running the floor, sprinting the floor, around the basket,

tipping balls in, catch and shooting, rolling out.”

Philadelphia is trying to avoid its first three-game slide after

falling 105-88 to the Timberwolves on Tuesday. Turner scored 19

while Holiday was held to 13 – 5.2 below his team-high average.

Reserve guard Nick Young has missed the last two games with a

left big toe hyperextension, and said he may be able to return

Saturday in Boston.