The Philadelphia 76ers were hit with a major blow pre-game, as it was announced that Joel Embiid is set for surgery tomorrow to repair a torn radial collateral ligament in his left ring finger.
Embiid is set to re-evaluated in one to two weeks, in which time, a clearer date for a possible return will be known.
VOTE FOR YOUR 2020 NBA ALL-STARS HERE
Despite the setback, Philadelphia were able to secure an impressive win over the Boston Celtics, 109-98.
Al Horford and Ben Simmons step up
Prior to Embiid's injury, there were questions surrounding the fit between Embiid and the newly acquired Al Horford.
Coming into the night, Horford was averaging just 12.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
The point average is Horford's lowest mark since 2009, though, he is clearly set to see a spike in usage without the two-time All-Star big man by his side.
Horford would finish with 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists on 7-for-11 shooting.
The defensive hustle and no-look dish... what a sequence from Ben Simmons!- NBA (@NBA) January 10, 2020
📺: @NBAonTNT pic.twitter.com/S1JUf4UtV4
For Ben Simmons, the obvious adjustment without Embiid would be using his elite transition game to push the pace and deliver open looks or finish at the rim.
Simmons tallied 19 points and nine rebounds on the night, with his intentions clear from the outset.
Philadelphia would lead the points in the paint count 50-38, and the fast break points 19-8, highlighting what is expected to be a free-flowing, high octane offence while Embiid recovers.
So far, so good.
The win for the Sixers could hold further significance as the season rolls on, as Philadelphia now hold a 3-0 advantage over Boston in the season series.
It is the first time since 2013-14 that the Sixers have taken the regular-season series over the Celtics, in the latest development in the intriguing Eastern Conference playoff race.
Philadelphia now move to 25-14 on the season, just 1.5 games back of the 25-11 Celtics who have now lost three straight games.
The Sixers (18-2) and the Celtics (14-3) have been dominant at home, so this could be a major result as playoff seeding takes shape in the second half of the regular season.
Celtics lack presence inside
Since the beginning of the season, rumours have swirled that the Celtics may look to add a big man before the February trade deadline.
Even without Embiid on the floor, Boston were held to outside jump shooting against the Sixers, with mixed results.
Kemba Walker was electric early, finishing with 26 points, though Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown combined for 29 points on 3-for-12 from beyond the arc.
🔙 to 🔙 pic.twitter.com/AatpE5oIED- Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 10, 2020
Brad Stevens certainly has an embarassment of riches at his disposal on the wings, though against teams with strong interior defence, they are too often made to shoot from the outside, which on nights like tonight can be a problem.
It remains to be seen if Boston will make a major move in the coming weeks but to this point, their lack of size has hurt in a big way against Philadelphia.