Sixers Vs. Celtics Opening Night: ‘Surreal' Situation for Al Horford, Guarding Kemba Walker Among Storylines to Watch

We've almost reached tip-off for Game 1 of 82. Finally. 

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Below are the essentials for the regular-season opener Wednesday night between the Sixers and Celtics.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET (Sixers Pregame Live on NBCSP at 6:30 p.m.)
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: ESPN
Live stats: Here 

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Guarding Kemba

Kemba Walker, the Celtics' new All-Star point guard, averaged 37.0 points against the Sixers last season.

When a local coach at Brett Brown's annual "Coach the Coaches" clinic asked new Sixers assistant Ime Udoka the right time to blitz the pick-and-roll, Udoka noted that Walker scored 60 points against the Sixers last season. Brown got a kick out of the joke and gave Udoka a hug. 

Look for Josh Richardson to be the primary defender against the 6-foot Walker, and for the Sixers to take an aggressive approach toward getting the ball out of Walker's hands if he starts to hurt them.

A ‘surreal' Sixers debut 

Horford left the Celtics this summer to sign a four-year deal with the Sixers. Speaking of Walker, Horford told the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett that his situation would have "been totally different" if he'd known the point guard was headed to Boston.

The day before his Sixers debut, Horford was frank about went wrong with last year's Celtics team, which lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Milwaukee Bucks.

I feel like last year with our group, we were so confident in what we did the year before and thinking that we were just probably going to walk through type of thing or turn it up when we needed to. What I've understood is that you have to put in the work and games need to be played. You have to do right things the right way consistently. That's something where we weren't able to be as consistent as we wanted to. That's a lesson that I take with me.

Horford acknowledged he finds himself in a "very surreal" spot facing his former team on opening night, now playing alongside Joel Embiid instead of guarding him. It will likely take a while for him wearing a Sixers jersey to feel normal for all parties.

Strategies against size

Brown has mentioned many times over the past few weeks that the Sixers are "huge," and has said he wants to play "smash mouth offense and bully ball defense."

How does he think Boston will combat that approach? 

"We've prepared a lot, talked a lot about small ball, if they just roll out tiny players, what are we going to do? If they sit in a zone, matchup zone, what are we going to do? If they double team Joel all the time, what are we going to do? You just try to make sure we're equipped to handle where other people may think we're weak or want to exploit."

The Sixers shot 31.7 percent from three-point range during the preseason and struggled against the Wizards' zone in a sluggish final dress rehearsal, so it certainly wouldn't be surprising to see a fair amount of zone from the Celtics. 



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