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Philadelphia 76ers

Will the Philadelphia 76ers overcome their struggles against the Boston Celtics?

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Marcus Smart, Ben Simmons [NBA Getty Images]

"This is not a rivalry... they always kick our a**," Philadelphia 76ers All-Star centre Joel Embiid stated after his team fell to the Boston Celtics on Opening Night this season.

And to his credit, he is not wrong - since the start of the 2017-18 season, including last year's playoff series, the 76ers are 2-10 against the Celtics.

They went 1-3 in their season series with Boston last regular season with all three losses coming in double figures. However, they did win the final meeting of the series that concluded in mid-January.

It was too far out to say it gave them any momentum or sense of confidence against a team they were destined to see again given the level of talent both teams possessed, but it was certainly better than being swept.

Regardless, the 76ers got hot at the right time.

They rattled off 16 straight wins to close out the 2017-18 season and posed as a legitimate contender to represent the Eastern Conference in The Finals heading into the playoffs. They marched through the Miami Heat in five games in the first round and anxiously awaited their next opponent.

The Celtics, without star guard Kyrie Irving, used all seven games to eliminate Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. They couldn't win on the road, which was a glaring weakness heading into a series against Philly who had the second-best home record in the East last season.

The foresight showed the Celtics' home court advantage might come in handy but it wasn't necessary - Boston took the first two games at home and won a close one on the road in overtime before coughing up one road game ahead of a gentlemen's sweep on their home court in the TD Garden.

And that's when their domination of this 76ers team became evident - they walked through one of the hottest teams in the NBA without their star player and made it look easy.

After a long offseason and some roster turnover, the Sixers had their chance to take revenge on the Celtics on 2018 Opening Night and lost, thus bringing forward Embiid's comments on the so-called 'rivalry'.

Their next contest was set for arguably the biggest stage of the regular season - Christmas Day - and the 76ers came up short in overtime when Kyrie Irving took over late in the game.

"This is clear as day... this is not a rivalry," Embiid reiterated after the loss.

That left two games in the season series, both in Philadelphia. The Sixers saw a Kyrie Irving-less Celtics team just before the All-Star break but couldn't take advantage as Gordon Hayward had a 26-point outburst to take the win.

The 76ers are 14-2 this season when all five starters score in double-figures - that home loss before the break was one of the two losses.

With this being the final home game against Boston before potentially meeting in the playoffs for a second consecutive year, Philadelphia will be looking for answers to end this drought.

While the responsibility never falls on one player, if the 76ers are going to snap this losing streak against their Atlantic Division foe they'll need improved play from All-Star guard Ben Simmons.

Simmons owns a dreadful plus/minus of minus-124 against the Celtics - by far his worst plus/minus against any team in the NBA.

The next closest being minus-33 against the Toronto Raptors, nearly 100 points better than the number against Boston.

His 14.0 points on 47.3 percent shooting from the field, 8.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists against the Celtics are all below his career averages, too.

Following the 76ers road win against the Hornets on Tuesday Simmons was asked if there was anything extra about the matchup against the Celtics, to which he downplayed it's significance, "no, we just gotta win the game. It's gonna be a good matchup and it's gonna be a fun game."

76ers head coach Brett Brown, however, was thrilled about the big game, "it's going to be awesome... we look forward to going back to Philadelphia and playing the Boston Celtics with Joel Embiid."

Embiid stayed in Philadelphia to rest up for the highly anticipated contest while the team travelled to and from Charlotte.

The 76ers find themselves sitting comfortably in the No. 3 spot in the East with a 3.0-game lead over the Celtics and a 2.5-game lead over the Indiana Pacers.

Should that seeding hold, it would take a meeting in the Eastern Conference Finals for Philly to see Boston in the playoffs again.

But on the off chance that the Pacers were to take over the No. 3 seed, it would set the stage for a first-round meeting between the Celtics and Sixers.

And in that case, Wednesday's showdown would be even more significant in the 76ers trying to snap their losing streak against Boston, ridding themselves of that burden heading into the postseason.

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