Which team is biggest threat to Celtics in Eastern Conference? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics are off to a great start with a 7-2 record, good enough for second place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Boston's only losses came in overtime to the Minnesota Timberwolves and in regulation to the Philadelphia 76ers. Speaking of the Sixers, they own the NBA's best record at 8-1. The James Harden trade has allowed Tyrese Maxey to flourish as the primary guard. Maxey is averaging career highs in pretty much every stat and scored 50 points in a win over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night. Nick Nurse is also doing a very good job in his first season as Philly's head coach.
Before the season, many experts viewed the Milwaukee Bucks as the Celtics' biggest competition in the East. That might still be the case, but the 76ers look pretty damn good right now. Is it time to consider the Sixers as the toughest obstacle in the conference?
"They actually kind of scare me right now," our insider Chris Forsberg said on a new Celtics Talk Podcast. "Maybe I'm overreacting to one game, and I still think the 76ers need another piece. They've got these draft picks now (from the Harden trade). I think there's still the potential for them to make another move and add another impact player. You're going to hear all the usual names, like coming off this Raptors team -- OG Anunoby is perpetually in the rumors.
"They have to find the right person who doesn't interfere with Maxey's development and accentuates Joel Embiid. If they were to use those picks and salary combination, and you've got contract year Tobias Harris and these new bench pieces to fill out your depth, I am a little bit worried. I still think it's probably a second-round matchup, depending on what the Bucks do. There's always a little bit of a honeymoon period with a new coach. I'm eager to see what the long term vision is with the 76ers and how it goes from there."
Eddie House praised the Sixers for their hot start, but he still believes the Celtics are their own biggest threat.
"I truly believe the Celtics are the biggest threat to themselves," he said. "If they don't play the right brand of basketball and understand that if they create their identity and stick to that, and say, 'This is how we're going to play every night, regardless of the opponent, this is what you're going to get night in and night out.' To me, that is the challenge with this team -- their consistency on both sides of the ball and understanding whatever it is that they have to do to win a game.
"Like (Saturday night), if it's pounding the paint, let's do that. Another night it might be we're getting into the paint but we're going to kick it out and knock down shots, we'll do that. But it all stems from being consistent on the defensive end of the floor. I truly believe the Boston Celtics are the only team that can get in the way of them and be a threat to themselves."
The Celtics will get another chance to play the Sixers on Wednesday night in Philadelphia. A second win over the Celtics would be quite an early-season statement by the Sixers, who are eager to prove they belong among the league's elite.
Also in this episode:
What is the most encouraging thing we’ve seen from the Celtics?
Did you expect the starters to be this good this early?
Most pleasant surprise?