The calendar turns to December today and the Philadelphia 76ers find themselves in 4th place of the Eastern Conference, right in the thick of it.
That makes a showdown with the No. 1 seed Boston Celtics a truly exciting one, and it feels like a lot is on the line as the two sides fight to break a tie in the season series.
But with a key injury, do Philly fans really need to worry about what a loss to the Celtics would mean?
Replacing the 23.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game Embiid averaged in those contests will be no easy task, no matter how much promise Paul Reed has shown.
Where do the Sixers stand in December?
The Sixers will not be part of the first ever In-Season Tournament after failing to make it out of the group stage, but the sites are aimed much higher than that - they're eyeing an NBA Championship. The next step towards that quest will come tonight at the TD Garden as the team will take on the Celtics for the third time this year.
The week started off perfectly for the Sixers on Monday, handing the Los Angeles Lakers a 44-point loss, the worst of LeBron James' career. James did become the all-time minutes leader in NBA history, but it's hard to celebrate that on a night like this one was. Joel Embiid provided a triple double and Tyrese Maxey contributed 31 points of his own, a game high. It was a beautiful night at Wells Fargo.
Then came Wednesday and it had a much different narrative. Embiid was ruled out with an illness, which obviously limited the offense. Zion Williamson is confirmed back as he dropped 33 points going 11-12 from the field and the Pelicans dominated in a 10-point game that probably should have been 30. Concerns are officially raised on this team if Embiid was to ever go down with a long-term injury (fingers crossed, knock on wood).
Where things stand before the Boston game, Philly is fourth in the East at 12-6, though they still have the third-best odds to win the conference. The Orlando Magic may be ahead of the Sixers in the standings for now, but they're obviously not a real threat.
Can Philly get back to winning ways without Embiid?
The Celtics have yet to lose a game at home this year, where they average almost 123 points a game.
That's where the Sixers are forced to play as they look to get back to their winning ways after losing 5 of their last 9 games — and they're not doing so in a favorable spot.
Joel Embiid is expected to miss his second game in a row with the same illness. It will be on Maxey, Tobias Harris, and help off the bench to generate offense and somehow stop the Celtics.
The Sixers and Celtics have already split the season series 1-1 with a +7 point differential in Boston's favor and Embiid getting full run in both games.
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