Sixers-Celtics Rivalry Renewed: ‘We Want to Be Challenged’

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Rivalries tend to have an ebb and flow, akin to riding a see-saw in the playground. One team might dominate the series for a few games, then the other one rises to the occasion. But, in the case of the Sixers and Celtics, it’s been a bit one-sided in recent years.

Okay, more than a bit. Boston has won five of their last eight regular-season meetings, with the Celtics knocking the Sixers out of the playoffs in six straight postseason matchups (2023, 2020, 2018, 2012, 2002, 1985). It causes added pain and anxiety when putting into context the immense magnitude of this Eastern Conference rivalry, one that evokes images of Larry Bird and Julius Erving coming to actual blows on the hardwood.

Pride is always on the line. Tempers are extra hot. And sometimes the rules go out the window. So, all those feelings and memories will be raging once again as the Sixers and Celtics prepare for battle tonight (Wednesday, November 8) at the Wells Fargo Center. Both teams come into their first matchup of the 2023-24 seasons playing great basketball. They share a dominant 5-1 record which sits them in a two-way tie atop the Eastern Conference standings. Get ready for the barometer to drop … and the litmus to be tested.

“I think they’ve been playing great basketball, so we’re going to embrace this challenge and this is an opportunity for us,” Sixers forward Tobias Harris told reporters. “We truly believe we have a great group here, a really good team, and we want to go up against the best and see where we stand, and just push ourselves and see where we’re at as a group and see also what areas we can better at.”

Philadelphia is riding a five-game winning streak — albeit against teams with a combined record of 10-17 — and showing no signs of missing James Harden. Remember, the Celtics came into the year mentioned in the same breath as the Milwaukee Bucks. They were the preseason favorites after adding Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday.  With the Harden situation unresolved at the time, the Sixers weren’t supposed to be in the conversation to win the East. Yet here they are.

“We want to get challenged,” Harris continued. “We want to play and go up against all the best teams and show how good we are at the same time. We got a great team and I think everybody in here knows and understands that and we expect to win every game we step on that floor.”

It’s very early. Sixers fans remain jaded. And no one is making parade plans. But, hope springs eternal in November. If the Sixers can somehow beat the Celtics, turn up the expectations and reconfigure the see-saw.