by Joe Rodriguez
If a game is decided by seven points or less this season you can pretty much count out the Philadelphia 76ers for a win.
The last time the Sixers squared off with the Atlantic Division-rival Boston Celtics at Wells Fargo Center they hammered their foes by a 103-71 score with first place at stake. They are hoping for similar results tonight versus the Celtics in south Philly.
Philadelphia, which is 2-14 this season in games decided by seven points or less, pulled out all the stops in a decisive victory over Boston on March 7. It was only the 76ers' third win in the previous 13 matchups between the teams and second in a row as the host after losing the previous seven at home.
The Sixers are just a half-game ahead of the Celtics in the Atlantic and suffered their fourth loss in five tries following a three-game winning streak with Wednesday's tough 82-79 setback to another division rival, the New York Knicks. With both Will Smith and Spike Lee on hand, Jrue Holiday scored 16 points and Jodie Meeks, Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala each netted 13 for Philadelphia, which is 6-12 since opening the season at 20-9.
"It seems like it's always something different with us," Iguodala said. "We have got to stay confident and fix our mistakes."
The Sixers shot 38.7 percent (29-of-75) from the field and fell to 16-10 as the host this season. It is currently seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference even though Indiana and Atlanta have better records. The 76ers are 0-8 in games decided by four points or less in 2011-12 and 1-15 when trailing at the start of the fourth quarter. On a more uplifting note for Philadelphia, it is first in the NBA in scoring defense (87.5 ppg).
Evan Turner must get back into the scoring groove for Philly and scored a career-high 26 points in the first meeting with Boston. He is averaging just 4.6 ppg in his last three contests and had just two versus the Knicks.
Boston will put the finishing touches on an eight-game road trip this evening and is 4-3 so far on the journey. It is coming off last night's 100-91 victory over the surging Milwaukee Bucks and ended their six-game winning streak in the process.
Paul Pierce poured in a game-high 25 points and pulled down nine rebounds, while Rajon Rondo handed out 14 assists to go with 10 points for the Celtics, who are 9-13 away from Beantown and seventh in the East.
"It's a good win definitely tonight, especially the way Milwaukee's been playing as of late," said Pierce. "This is a mentally strong group. We understand it's been a long trip. This is a group that wants to get the next win to make it a great trip."
Kevin Garnett finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Brandon Bass added 12 and 10 in a winning effort. The Celtics shot 48.3 percent in Milwaukee and will play four of six games at home following tonight's tilt with the 76ers.
Las Vegas Sports Betting Prediction: Philadelphia 91, Boston 87
andre iguodala - boston celtics - brandon bass - evan turner - jodie meeks - jrue holiday - kevin garnett - lou williams - paul pierce - philadelphia 76ers