Nerlens Noel
76ers-Celtics Preview
Nerlens Noel

76ers-Celtics Preview

Published Nov. 25, 2015 12:54 a.m. ET

After the Boston Celtics handed a pair of wins to two struggling teams, it would make for a troubling trend if the Philadelphia 76ers pull off a third.

The winless 76ers hope to become the latest to benefit from Boston's downturn when they visit TD Garden on Wednesday night.

The Celtics (7-7) picked up their fourth win in five games with an easy 120-95 victory over visiting Brooklyn on Friday, but things have since gone the other way.

A few cracks started to show in Sunday's 111-101 road loss to the Nets, who never trailed and led by as much as 22, before Boston crumbled in Tuesday's 121-97 loss at Atlanta that marked its worst of the season. The Nets and Hawks had each lost four of five before beating Boston, which has dropped three of its last four.


Most troubling is a defense which allowed Brooklyn and Atlanta to make more than half their shots - a mark Boston had allowed only once in the first 12 games. The Celtics have also allowed at least 50 points in the paint in three straight, including 68 by the Hawks.

"We've got to reconnect as a group," coach Brad Stevens said. "I think we did a lot of things on an island. When your defense is a sieve, you're not a team. The best way we will be able to recognize it is if we guard somebody for once."

Avery Bradley's surge has continued despite Boston's slide. After sitting out two games with a calf injury, Bradley has averaged 21.0 points in his last six while making 53.8 percent of his shots.

He followed a season-high 27 points against Brooklyn on Sunday with an efficient 25 on 10-of-17 shooting against Atlanta. Bradley has made 20 of 39 shots from 3-point range since returning from his injury, including 11 of 22 in the last two games.

Bradley averaged 10.7 points through six games, including just four against the 76ers in a season-opening 112-95 win Oct. 28.

Isaiah Thomas did the damage in that one with 27 points and seven assists while making 10 of 19 shots, helping the Celtics to their fifth consecutive win in this series - the last three coming in Boston.

Philadelphia (0-15) is 0-8 on the road and has lost 34 of 36 away from home. The 76ers will try to avoid pulling within one of the franchise-worst 0-17 mark they opened last season with while trying to snap a 0-25 skid dating to last season - two short of the longest losing streak in league history they suffered through in 2013-14.

Jahlil Okafor did all he could to net Philadelphia its first victory Monday. The rookie hit 10 of 15 shots for 25 points while grabbing 12 rebounds and far outplayed Minnesota's No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns.

He helped the 76ers build a 13-point first-half lead that still stood at five with 2:30 left, but Andrew Wiggins - another top draft pick - scored 15 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Timberwolves to a 100-95 win.

"I think we've taught them how to compete," 76ers coach Brett Brown said. "Now the next layer is we've got to teach them how to close out a game with a win."

Okafor finished with 26 points and seven rebounds in the season opener against Boston, but he committed eight turnovers. Nerlens Noel scored 14 points and pulled in 13 boards.


Nerlens Noel
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