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76ers Host Celtics on National Television

Doug Collins and the Sixers are feeling pretty good about their recent surge, winning four of their last five games. Liberty Ballers talked to Spencer Hawes after the Cavaliers win.

"Right now we're just looking forward, we're winning now," Hawes said. "We just need to keep this thing rolling and not focus on the past.  Just keep moving forward, keep getting better."

Before jumping on the playoff bandwagon, consider the Sixers' opponents in those four wins. The last-place Nets minus Troy Murphy, the struggling Trail Blazers with a hobbled Brandon Roy, and two more bad teams in the Bobcats and Cavaliers. All four came at home where the Sixers are now 6-4, tied for the 12th best home record in the league. Compare that to their 1-10 road record, one of the worst marks in the Eastern Conference. Fortunately for them, they take on the Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center.

Unfortunately, the Celtics are the best team in the Eastern Conference and only one game behind the anti-aging Spurs for tops in the league. Oh, and they're also winners of their last 8, having offed .500+ teams like Denver, Chicago, and Atlanta. Not bad.

Boasting a starting lineup with WS/48's all over .159 (the Sixers only have one in Thaddeus Young) and PER's of at least 15, the Celtics are the odds-on favorite to represent the East in the Finals in June. They have six players that average over 11 points per game and that's without any help from last year's starting center, Kendrick Perkins, who has been out with a right knee injury.

The biggest surprise has got to be the resurgence of one Shaquille O'Neal, perhaps you've heard of him, who has posted some of the most efficient numbers of his career in his first year in Boston. In monitored minutes from coach Doc Rivers, Shaq has shot 68.7% from the field on only 6.2 field goal attempts per game. His usage rate of 21% is a career low, but his win shares per 48 minutes is up to a team-leading 0.238, his best mark since 2003 with the Lakers. By keeping his minutes down, Rivers has made Shaq a dominant force once again in the NBA, aided by a terrific lineup of killers and the best passing point guard in the league in Rajon Rondo, who does things like this.

TNT has a few great matchups to look forward to in tonight's game. Iguodala/Pierce is always great, Jodie Meeks and Ray Allen is figuring to be a shooting contest based on the timely surges of both guards, and Jrue Holiday should have a fun time trying to guard Rajon Rondo. Sixers fans can't be looking forward to Shaq/Hawes, despite the recent success of the Washington center, because Hawes isn't what a basketball expert would call "tough inside."

Hopefully the Sixers can keep it interesting for their first TNT broadcast of the year. It'd be nice if Evan Turner had a game against Paul Pierce, a player he's been compared to during his time at Ohio State. These teams face off again in Boston in two weeks.