Elite NBA Basketball Comes to London
On 11th January, some of the world's best basketball players will be competing at the O2 in London, as the legendary Boston Celtics take on the Philadelphia 76ers. This is a 'regular season' game in the NBA, renowned as the strongest and most star-studded league on the planet. Although the objective is clearly to promote the NBA to a European audience, this is no exhibition game. The Celtics stand proudly at the top of the 'Eastern Conference' half of the league at this midway point of the season and will be aiming to keep their good form going to guarantee themselves a good draw in the prestigious end of season play-offs. The match is possibly even more important for the 'Sixers', as Philadelphia are known, as they are currently in 9th place, with the top 8 teams qualifying for the playoffs.
Both teams come into this game on a good run. The Celtics have won 4 in a row, and the Sixers have triumphed in their last 3 matches. So far this season, the Celtics have won over 75% of their matches, with the Sixers just below 50%, and the Celtics have won both league meetings. Nonetheless, in an unfamiliar venue and with both teams in form, an entertaining clash is in prospect.
Who to watch out for
The biggest points scorer for the Sixers this season has been 7-foot centre Joel Embiid, with an average of 23.8 per game. He also tops their rebound statistics, so he is sure to be a threat to the Celtics at both ends of the court. Embiid has been suffering from a hand injury, but he returned to play on 3rd January, so should hopefully be ready for London. The Celtics leading points scorer is three-time NBA all-star Kyrie Irving, currently averaging 24.8 points per game, but they possibly have greater strength in depth.
Will this game feature the eventual NBA champions?
The Sixers did not make the playoffs last season, so to be involved in the post-season games at all will represent good progress for them. The Celtics lost in the semi-finals to Lebron James' Cleveland Cavaliers last year, but the general perception is that the Celtics have improved and will offer a bigger threat this year. To overcome the stars of the Cavaliers, followed by the all-conquering Golden State Warriors, is certainly a big ask, but the Celtics are clearly headed in the right direction.
How can you see the game?
There are still, at time of writing, a small number of tickets left. Any basketball fans who want to experience a top-level game would be well-advised to snap these up. For those not able to attend, the game will be available on BT Sport. Anyone, whether a regular basketball watcher or not, is likely to be impressed by the grace and athleticism of these players, and to be entertained by the frenetic nature of the contest.
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