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W2W4: C's vs. 76ers (Game 22 of 82)

The Boston Celtics (7-14, 2-6 away) visit the Philadelphia 76ers (2-21, 0-12 home) on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

All praise for Philly: The Celtics, coming off head-shaking losses to the Hornets and Knicks, know they must approach approach Philadelphia like a 21-2 team. Asked about how the 76ers are playing since the first meeting, Celtics coach Brad Stevens gushed: "I think the thing that stands out about Philly is their passion and the effort with which they play, and it very rarely wanes. I credit them and I credit Brett Brown, they do what they do, they do it hard, they do it well. And this little tweak of playing a little bit smaller and being a little bit more spread out on both ends of the floor has been effective. They had one of the best teams in the league beat [Saturday] night [against Memphis], all the way up until the freakin' buzzer."

76ers at a glance: When these teams meet a month ago, Philadelphia ranked dead last in offensive rating and middle of the pack in defensive rating. The 76ers have made strides in the month of December and actually rank fifth in the league in defensive rating this month while allowing only 95.9 points per 100 possessions. The Celtics were often bothered by Philly's length and ability to block shots near the basket. Troubles lie on the offensive end where the 76ers own a defensive rating of 93.6 this month, second worst in the league in front of only the Pacers (92.2).

New look for 76ers: More from Stevens on the 76ers: "They are playing a little bit different than when we played them the first time. They are playing [Luc] Mbah a Moute at the 4, they are almost never playing [Nerlens] Noel and [Henry] Sims together, which makes them a problem on both ends of the court. They are switching a lot more, and they are long -- they don’t have a guy below 6-feet-6 on their roster. They really make it so that it’s tough to get good shots; their defensive numbers have improved dramatically since we played them the last time. The addition of [Robert] Covington has added a guy that has helped stretch the floor for them; I think he had six 3s against Brooklyn. They are running plays to him late when it matters. They’ve obviously won a few games, but they are also clearly better and clearly different than when we played them the first time."

Loose Balls: The Celtics will be without Marcus Smart (foot) and Marcus Thornton (calf), both of whom did not make the trip after recent setbacks. ... Boston is expected to have Avery Bradley back after he missed Friday's game due to illness. ... Philadelphia's K.J. McDaniels missed Saturday's game with a sprained ankle. ... From STATS LLC: The 76ers are 0-12 at home for the second-worst start in NBA history behind the 1993-94 Dallas Mavericks, who opened 0-19 on their own court. ... Boston posted a 101-90 victory in Philly on Nov. 19, but needed to rally a bit after a slow start. ... Philly's first win came on Dec. 3 in Minnesota, then it topped Detroit in overtime three days later. ... The 76ers have also lost three straight, including an overtime defeat versus Memphis on Saturday.

(Read full game preview)