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Friday, March 11, 2011
Game 63: Celtics vs. 76ers

By Greg Payne

(46-16, 19-10 away)     -- vs. --     (33-31, 21-11 home)
at Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pa., 7 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)

PAYNE'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
While it's hardly a surprise that no Eastern Conference team has more wins than the Boston Celtics, none having more than the Philadelphia 76ers over the past seven weeks certainly is.

In a possible first-round playoff preview, the 76ers could make a big statement Friday night by handing the Celtics their first loss in Philadelphia in nearly four years.

Boston (46-16) has been atop the East virtually all season following its trip to last year's NBA finals. Philadelphia (33-31) shared the conference's third-worst record last season and wasn't expected to do much better in coach Doug Collins' first season, particularly after a 3-13 start.

However, the 76ers have gone 16-6 since Jan. 21 -- the only East team with a better record in that span is Chicago (16-4) -- to climb to seventh in the conference. If they stay in that spot, they could open the playoffs against a Boston team which is at risk of falling to second because the Bulls have moved within 1 1/2 games.

Both meetings between these teams came in December and the Sixers lost both but put up a good fight, falling by a combined five points. The Celtics are 12-2 versus the 76ers since their Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce was formed in the 2007-08 season, including victories in all seven visits to Philadelphia.

The Sixers' only three losses in their last 10 home games came to three of the league's top eight teams record-wise -- Orlando, Dallas and Oklahoma City. They nearly knocked off the visiting Thunder on Wednesday, blowing a five-point lead in the final minute of regulation and losing 110-105 in overtime.

"I thought our guys did a terrific job," Collins said after his team's three-game winning streak was snapped. "I thought we were one play away from winning the game. That is the first one that has gotten away from us like that in a long time."

Read the full preview HERE.