Celtics, 76ers out to put on a show for London NBA fans

LONDON (Reuters) - The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are set to meet in a London showdown on Thursday evening in a clash of two of the NBA's in-form teams.

Fans have flooded into the British capital from across Europe, excited at the prospect of the bright young sides going head to head.

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The Celtics – led by free agent acquisition Kyrie Irving – have been the surprise story of the season, recovering from losing star player Gordon Hayward five minutes into the campaign to lead the Eastern Conference with a 33-10 record.

They face the 19-19 76ers, who are battling for the playoff spots behind the Celtics in the Eastern Conference, and come into the game on a run of four consecutive wins.

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Celtics, 76ers players arrive in London
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Celtics, 76ers players arrive in London
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 8: Aron Baynes #46 of the Boston Celtics departs for London as part of 2018 NBA London Game on January 8, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 9: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers arrives at the hotel as part of the 2018 NBA London Game at the Grosvenor House on January 9, 2018 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 9: Semi Ojeleye #37 of the Boston Celtics signs basketballs during a autograph signing as part of the 2018 NBA London Game at the Landmark Hotel on January 9, 2018 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 9: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics signs basketballs during a autograph signing as part of the 2018 NBA London Game at the Landmark Hotel on January 9, 2018 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 9: Markelle Fultz #20 of the Philadelphia 76ers autographs basketballs at the hotel as part of the 2018 NBA London Game at the Grosvenor House on January 9, 2018 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 9: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics speaks to the media during practice as part of the 2018 NBA London Global Game at Citysport on January 9, 2018 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 9: Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot #7 and JJ Redick #17 of the Philadelphia 76ers pose for a photo with Retired French professional footballer, Thierry Henry as part of 2018 NBA London Game at the Landmark Hotel on January 9, 2018 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 9: obert Covington #33 of the Philadelphia 76ers smiles during an NBA Cares Clinic as part of the 2018 NBA London Global Game at Citysport on January 9, 2018 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 9: Mamdou Sakho, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Jeffrey Schlupp of Crystal Palace football team look on during practice as part of the 2018 NBA London Global Game at Citysport on January 9, 2018 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 10: Kyrie Irving #11, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics reacts during practice as part of the 2018 NBA London Global Game at Citysport on January 10, 2018 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 10: Markelle Fultz #20, Joel Embiid #21 and Justin Anderson #1of the Philadelphia 76ers pose for a portrait as part of the 2018 NBA London Global Game at Potters Fields Park on January 10, 2018 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 10: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics signs autographs during practice as part of the 2018 NBA London Global Game at Citysport on January 10, 2018 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 10: Guerschon Yabusele #30, Daniel Theis #27, Semi Ojeley #37 and Abdel Nader #28 of the Boston Celtics pose for a portrait during an NBA Cares Hospital Care Packing Project as part of the 2018 NBA London Game at the Landmark Hotel on January 10, 2018 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Celtics, however, have won six in a row and Irving, speaking at a media day ahead of the game, believes his team are refreshed and ready to deal with the 76ers and their rookie sensation Ben Simmons.

“We have been off for about three days now and so the guys are pretty fresh, ready to get back out there, focus on the game and prepare as we always do. Demand excellence and go and put on a show,” said Irving, who joined the Celtics last year from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Those guys are so young and active and they do a great job of getting to their spots, led by Ben Simmons. He does a great job about getting everybody involved and being aggressive.

“For us, we just have to bring our unique intensity on the defensive end and make it uncomfortable and really give the fans a show. Bring the Celtic pride over here to London.”

For the 76ers, much has been made of their maligned rebuilding program in recent years, referred to as "the process".

Led by coach Brett Brown, it has been a difficult period for 76ers fans, as the team posted losing records for the past five seasons, including only winning 10 games in 2015-16.

However, the high draft picks acquired through poor performance have led to an upsurge in performances, led by rookie Simmons and All-Star Joel Embiid.

“I missed the first year of the process, but I feel like I have seen everything, I have been through everything. I was here when we only won 10 games in a season, which is awful," Embiid said.

"I take it personal too. I think some people might have lost their jobs because of me so every time I am on the court I try and do my best, I give it my all.”

Simmons, seen by most analysts as a certainty to win Rookie of the Year honors, admitted it takes time to build a great team, but remains excited for the future of such a young and dynamic squad.

Victory in London for the Celtics would extend their lead over the Toronto Raptors atop the Eastern Conference as they look to return to the Conference Final for the second consecutive season.

(Reporting by Jack Tarrant, editing by Ed Osmond)

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