The Sixers are reeling, injuries are mounting and frustrations are boiling for the fans. Ben Simmons (Lower Back) and Joel Embiid (Shoulder Sprain) are out for tonight’s game as they’re both dealing with injuries. There may not be much to look forward to on the surface, but how the Sixers respond to this adversity is crucial.
Shockingly, this game against the New York Knicks has found meaning. At the start of the season, the Sixers would be expected to demolish this team. This season, however, certainly has not gone as expected. Without Simmons and Embiid the team must look elsewhere to lead them to the win. Hopefully, Tobias Harris will answer the call.
Keys to the game
Harris is the key
Tobias Harris received an enormous contract this offseason and it’s time for him to earn it. Harris has shown to be a nice offensive complementary piece but now he has the chance to shine as the go-to option. If Harris is going to succeed in that role, Brett Brown will need to feed him the ball early and often.
One way to help is to run the pick-and-roll between Harris and Horford. Harris can drive, spot up, and anything in between off of a Horford screen. Likewise, Al Horford can either roll or pop, giving him an opportunity to score fluidly. Harris excels in the mid-range and can utilize the space from the pick-and-roll to attack any way he sees fit.
Brett Brown needs Harris to be the man both open and close against the Knicks. If the game is close, which is sadly a possibility, Harris’ scoring touch will be needed late in the game.
Protect the Paint
Without Embiid, the paint is vulnerable against the Knicks. The Sixers must protect it at all costs to seal the win as the majority of the Knicks talent do their best work there. Al Horford will be key, as will Kyle O’Quinn (who is not particularly known as a defender). The hopeful case is that Norvel Pelle returns tonight, but after missing last night’s game with an upper respiratory infection, the odds aren’t incredibly high.
The difficulty the Sixers face is that if they collapse the paint, they’re liable to be picked apart by the Knicks’ shooters. Not that the Knicks are particularly good from the three-point line, but teams can get hot. Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, and Mitchell Robinson are the dangerous players to watch. While not household names, with a weakened Sixers roster they could trouble this team.
The Sixers will rise up tonight and defeat the Knicks in solid fashion. It may not be pretty but a win is a win. While it will be ugly, I do expect a decent lead at the end of the game.
Final Score: Sixers 113 – Knicks 104
Tip-off is at 7:00 PM EST and you can catch NBC Sports Philadelphia. If not you can listen at 97.5 FM the Fanatic. This game is a must win and we will learn about the fight from this team tonight.
Mandatory Credit – © Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports