Joel Embiid, Al Horford relish Christmas Day Sixers-Celtics matchup

Joel Embiid and Al Horford are relishing their matchup when the 76ers take on the Celtics at 5:30 p.m. ET Christmas Day.

The 76ers have won just three of their last 22 against the Celtics, with Embiid saying after Philadelphia lost its season-opener to Boston: “This is not a rivalry … they always kick our ass.”

The All-Star center has admitted to finding life difficult in the 76ers offense since the team traded for Jimmy Butler, but he is looking forward to focusing on being physical Tuesday.

“I love playing against those guys,” Embiid said. “They’re physical. I like it. I like the physicality, I like the toughness. It’s fun. It makes basketball fun.

“Al is another one — he’s always had his way against us. He’s such a great guy, a veteran, knows how to play the game.

“I’m excited to go out there, and on Christmas Day, too. That’s special. It’s going to be exciting, and we’re going to have a blast.”

Horford made his return from a knee injury that kept him out of seven games when he played 19 minutes in Sunday’s 119-103 victory over the Hornets.

Although he has only just made his comeback, Horford is eager to test himself against a player he admires in Embiid.

“It’s great,” Horford said of going up against the 76ers center. “I have a lot of respect for Joel. I’ve always been a big fan of his game, and just how he is.

“He’s a guy that you want to see play, and I feel like you want him around you, right?

“It’s one of those games we are lucky to be one of the few teams playing on Christmas Day, and it is nationally televised. It’s one of those fun games, and we’re here at home, so it’s good for us.”

While Horford has returned to the lineup, Aron Baynes last week was ruled out for at least a month after undergoing surgery on a broken hand.

“It’s tough when there are so many guys in and out of the line-up and so many things [changing],” Horford said.

“It puts a lot of pressure on some of our guys, so it’s just good we’re getting healthy. Marcus Morris being back, that’s huge for us, me being back obviously.

“Baynes is out now but at least we are getting healthy again, so that is all going to help our offense, and help our team.”