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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

76ers undefeated at home

Graphic by Kelly Smith 19
Graphic by Kelly Smith ’19

Hawk Hill reacts to opening week

On opening night to the 2018-19 NBA regular season, the Philadelphia 76ers picked up right where they left off last post-season, mirroring their performance in the 2018 Eastern Conference semifinals. They kept the game competitive for three quarters, but eventually allowed their alleged rivals, the Boston Celtics, to break away 105-87 in TD Garden.

After the game, 76ers Center Joel Embiid declared his stance on the so-called rivalry.

“This is not a rivalry,” Embiid told Kyle Hightower of the Associated Press. “I don’t know our record against them, but it’s pretty bad. They always kick our ass.”

Whether it’s a formal rivalry or not, there is history between the two teams as they have met for 21 playoff series, the most in NBA history. Philadelphia won eight of those series, but in more recent years, especially during the “trust the process” era, this matchup hasn’t been nearly as competitive.

The 76ers are 3-11 against Boston since the 2016-17 season, including playoff meetings.

Justin Kessler ’20, a long-time 76ers fan, said he believes that there is potential for a rivalry.

“I’m disappointed that [Embiid] said that,” Kessler said. “I feel like we do have pieces to compete with the Celtics. It’s just that right now the team chemistry isn’t there.”

Will Rietzke ’20, another avid 76ers fan, said Embiid’s honesty is what makes him so fun to follow.

“I agree with Embiid,” Rietzke said. “I also think he’s trying to motivate his guys to not lay down and die next time the Celtics go on a run in the third or fourth quarter.”

After last season’s unsuccessful playoff series against Boston, Rietzke said the 76ers had added motivation headed into this game, but couldn’t keep up as a result of the Celtics’ depth.

“I’m sure there was a little animosity,” Rietzke said. “It didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to. They were able to hold their own until about halfway through the third [quarter].”

In Philadelphia’s double-digit loss, Celtics star guard Kyrie Irving only scored seven points while six of his teammates scored nine or more points. The 76ers only had three players do so.

“A lot of these guys on the Celtics can put up 20 a night,” Kessler said. “You have to know and be aware of the guys that are going to step up.”

Markelle Fultz, the 76ers 2017 first overall draft pick, who only played 12 games last season due to injury, scored five points. Kessler said he expects to see growth from the University of Washington product.

“Based off of all his work over the offseason, I’m expecting an improved jump shot,” Kessler said. “As of now, he’s good with fastbreaks, layups and driving.”

On Oct. 18, during their 127-108 home opener win against the Chicago Bulls, 76ers fans offered Fultz an overwhelming amount of support. After scoring his first three-pointer of the season, fans mocked the Minnesota Vikings Skol chant, replacing “skol” with “Markelle.”

Sam Robinson ’20, who was at the game, said it was obvious that everyone had their eyes on Fultz.

“Every time he touched the ball, you would hear people screaming for him to shoot it,” Robinson said. “Even when he missed, people clapped and cheered. He looked more relaxed when he saw that the fans were behind him.”

Robinson said it was very important to get a bounceback win against Chicago, especially at home in Wells Fargo Arena, which he said was buzzing with energy.

“You could definitely see the players getting amped up,” Robinson said. “Especially after the Celtics game, this win regained some confidence throughout the fan base, largely for the more pessimistic fans.”

The 76ers came back to Wells Fargo on Oct. 20, beating the Orlando Magic 116-115 in the closing seconds of the game.

Overall, there is a different anticipation level from fans this season. Rietzke said the team is a more experienced crew.

“They know what to avoid, how to act and how to play,” Rietzke said. “I expect them to win another first round series and then the goal is to win a second round series and get to the Eastern Conference Finals.”

For Robinson, expectations are a little higher.

“It’s Finals or bust,” Robinson said. “This teams has the potential to win a lot of games. Simmons and Embiid are one of the best young combos in basketball that can do a lot of big things. I don’t see why they can’t make the finals.”

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