Friday, March 11, 2011

Sixers and Celtics renew rivalry

The City of Brotherly Love has been very kind to the Boston Celtics lately, and the Atlantic Division leaders aim to keep it that way when they invade south Philly tonight to take on the rival 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.

Boston has won seven in a row and nine of 10 trips to Philadelphia and its last loss on the road in this series took place on March 30, 2007 in an 88-82 decision. The Celtics have beaten the Sixers twice already this season and three straight times overall, and are 15-5 in the previous 20 meetings between the two clubs.

The Celtics are in danger of losing the top seed in the Eastern Conference, sitting just 1 1/2 games ahead of a resurgent Chicago squad, and had their five-game winning streak stopped with Wednesday's 108-103 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at TD Garden. Ray Allen and Nenad Krstic had 23 and 20 points, respectively, while Paul Pierce netted 19 in a losing effort.

"It's tough when you get out to bad starts and a lot of that has to do with the starters," Pierce said. "How we come out at the beginning of the games, we've got to come out with a better focus. Once you get a team confidence like the Clippers then they feed off that for the rest of the game and were able to get the win."

Boston is still closing in on its fourth straight Atlantic Division title and is 13 games ahead of New York in the standings. It is 19-10 away from Beantown this season.

Philadelphia has been one of the hottest teams in the East lately, going 16-6 in the past 22 contests and 30-18 since a dreadful 3-13 start.

The 76ers had a three-game winning streak halted with Wednesday's 110-105 overtime loss versus Oklahoma City, as Kevin Durant tied the game with a three-pointer in the closing moments in regulation and finished with 34 points and 16 rebounds. Philadelphia was led by 22 points apiece from Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams. Jodie Meeks added 17 and Andre Iguodala scored 14 points in defeat.

"I'm disappointed because I really wanted our guys to win this game," Sixers head coach Doug Collins said. "Our crowd was so great tonight. They are a good defensive team. Their length inside bothered us. [Serge] Ibaka, [Nick] Collison, [Nazr] Mohammed made it very difficult for us to get anything around the basket. They beat us in the paint 52-36, so that was tough."

Collins' squad is one game behind the Knicks for the sixth spot in the conference standings and owns a 21-11 home record this season. Following Friday’s game, the Sixers will embark on a five-game trek through Milwaukee, Utah, LA Clippers, Sacramento and Portland.

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