Sixers Vs. Celtics: Atlantic Division Foes Meet With Enormous Consequences

Mar 23, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) goes for the steal on Philadelphia 76ers forward Andre Iguodala (9) during the first quarter at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers defeated the Celtics 99-86. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The Celtics host the Sixers Sunday night as two teams on separate trajectories play for a foothold in the Atlantic Division race.

The Boston Celtics have been absolutely on fire since the All-Star Break, going 16-7 and beating teams like the Miami Heat, the New York Knicks, the Los Angeles Clippers and Saturday night hammering the Indiana Pacers by 14 points. At one point, there was speculation over whether they would even make the playoffs or whether they would trade Rajon Rondo or any of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen and blow up the whole team. That now seems wildly premature, and they're leading the Atlantic Division with just a few weeks left in the regular season.

The Philadelphia 76ers are the team the Celtics passed in the Atlantic Division. Early in the season, they had one of the best records in the league. Without a major injury, without any drama, they have completely collapsed. They still have among the stoutest defenses in the league, but the offense is a mess. Their leading scorer is Lou Williams, who comes off the bench (though he finished games), they get inconsistent production from big men Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes, and while Andre Iguodala is worthy of his All-Star credentials, he can't carry this team.

The Sixers now are in jeopardy of falling out of the playoffs entirely, and the Celtics can take a stranglehold of the division. In other words, there's no better time for the two teams to play each other, which they'll do Sunday night. The fate of the Atlantic Division, unless the Knicks can make a run, rests heavily on the outcome of the game.

Game Date/Time: Sunday, April 8, 6 p.m. ET

Location: TD Garden, Boston, Mass.

TV: NBATV

For more on these two teams, visit Sixers blog Liberty Ballers and SB Nation Philly, CelticsBlog and SB Nation Boston.

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