Sixers-Celtics 5 Things: Avenging Two Extremely Close Losses

The Sixers (21-34) play their final game before the All-Star break when they take on the Boston Celtics (36-19) at TD Garden (7:30 p.m./CSN, and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Back to work
Well, the Sixers know how to keep things interesting.

After Jahlil Okafor sat out the last two games because of what was thought to be an impending trade, he joined the team in Boston for this matchup against the Celtics.

Okafor was present with the team during shootaround and is expected to come off the bench against the C's.

It's just the latest twist in what has been a strange few weeks for Okafor. The second-year center went from a string of DNP-CDs to starting for the injured Joel Embiid. Then Okafor stated he wanted to remain a Sixer as he played through growing trade speculation, only to be removed from the lineup for a potential deal. Now he's back in a reserve role behind Nerlens Noel.

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Throw in the fact that Okafor rejoins the Sixers in Beantown - the place where one of his worst off-court transgressions took place as a rookie - and you would be hard pressed to find Hollywood writers that could make up this scenario.

2. Going streaking
As far as on the court, things have been going well for the Sixers. They used Nicolas Batum's guarantee of a victory as fuel for a 105-99 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday. The win was their third in a row to tie a season high.

"You can't say that with us," Noel said of Batum's guarantee. "We're not the team that we used to be in the past few years."

That's true. Following a rocky transition to Embiid's being out for extended time, the Sixers have found a rhythm and will go for their first four-game win streak since Dec. 29-Jan. 4 of the 2013-14 season.

The Celtics are riding a three-game win streak of their own and have won 10 of 11 to climb into the second spot in the Eastern Conference.

3. Little big man
The biggest reason the Celtics have been able to shoot up the standings is the stellar play of Isaiah Thomas.

Thomas is second in the NBA in scoring with a career-high 29.8 points per game. The diminutive guard has shot the ball well: a career-best 46.8 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from three-point range.

Thomas hasn't neglected the other aspects of his game. He has also put up 6.3 assists and 2.6 rebounds a night.

The Sixers know just how dangerous the All-Star has been this season. He is averaging 30.5 points, 5.0 assists and 4.0 boards against them so far in 2016-17.

4. Injuries
Embiid (knee), Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Avery Bradley (Achilles) is a game-time decision. Jaylen Brown (hip) is out for the Celtics.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost 10 straight to the Celtics.

• The Sixers' first two defeats of the season to the Celtics came by a combined five points: a 107-106 home loss on Dec. 3 and a 110-106 road loss on Jan. 6.

• Ersan Ilyasova is averaging 19.0 points and 4.0 rebounds against the Celtics this season.

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