By Joseph Santoliquito

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The deal that made the Philadelphia 76ers bonafide NBA championship contenders occurred last week. The test comes tonight when the Sixers host their long-time nemesis, the Boston Celtics.

The Sixers are 0-2 against the Celtics this season and 2-9 overall, including playoffs, over the last two years.

But those Celtics have yet to meet these 76ers of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, which is probably the second-best starting five in the NBA behind Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins.

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The Celtics (35-21) are in a bit of a freefall, after losing consecutive games at home to the Los Angeles Lakers and then blowing a 28-point lead Saturday night in a 123-112 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. That came after losing an 18-point lead to the mediocre Lakers last Thursday.

Current Celtic forward—and former Philadelphian—Marcus Morris was so angry that he reportedly said the Celtics were playing like a “bunch of individuals” and that “it hasn’t been fun for a long time.”

“I watch all these other teams around the league and guys are up on the bench … they’re enjoying everything, and they’re playing together and they’re playing to win. And when I look at us I just see a bunch of individuals. We’re going to lose games, but we don’t have no attitude, we don’t have no toughness, we ain’t having fun. It’s been a long season.”

That had to be sweet music to the Sixers.

It’s mid-February, though, a huge Sixers’ victory could send a larger message to the rest of the NBA that they’re more than just a shiny, new toy.

Sixers general manager Elton Brand put it out there: The time is now.

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All five starters are capable of scoring 20 points any night. What’s more is that in the short time they’ve been together, they’re sharing the ball, willing to sacrifice portions of their game for the greater good.

Anything less than reaching the NBA Finals would be a failure with how this team is currently constructed, how they’re coached and how well they’re playing.

Joseph Santoliquito