After a well-needed day of rest, the Sixers are back in action tonight for a matchup against James Harden and the Brooklyn Nets.
This game has been circled on the calendars of many as it is looked at as a potential Eastern Conference Finals preview.
Unfortunately, injuries have piled up once again, and the game has lost some of its appeals. It is still a game in which the Sixers desperately need to take care of business and get back in the win column.
Since becoming the James Harden sweepstakes winners, the Nets have ascended into legitimate title contenders. They have put together arguably the most offensively talented big-three of all time.
The Nets currently hold a 14-10 record and sitting 2.5 games back of the Sixers and in third place in the East. They are first in the league in scoring, averaging 122 points per game. They’re also shooting over 40% from 3 as a team.
Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden all average over 23 points per game, and they have not been shy of their tactic of looking to outscore teams.
As impressive as the Nets are, their defensive is equally disappointing. The team currently ranks 28th in the league in defensive rating allowing 118 points per game. This will be an exciting matchup as the Sixers are much more invested on the defensive end than Brooklyn.
Injuries and Covid Protocols
Kyrie Irving has been officially ruled out for the matchup due to a right index finger sprain. The Nets will also continue to be without Spencer Dinwiddie, who tore his ACL and is out for the season.
Kevin Durant is officially listed as questionable for the Sixers matchup due to Covid protocols. In what was one of the more unique scenes of the season so far, KD was pulled from last night’s game due to a close contact testing positive for Covid-19.
The nearly 7-foot sniper was initially removed from the starting lineup in the afternoon. Someone Durant had interacted closely with earlier in the day registered an inconclusive test. He was held out while the test was reviewed and eventually cleared to enter the game.
Unfortunately, it did not end there. It was discovered later in the game that this contact had tested positive for the virus. Durant was forced to exit the game in the 3rd quarter as a preventative measure.
It is also noteworthy that Durant himself got the virus in March and has been registering antibodies on NBA tests.
While he has tested negative 3 times in the past 24 hours, it seems likely Durant will be held out of this matchup against the Sixers. The 32-year-old is currently second in the league in scoring, averaging 29.5 points per game, and also missed the first matchup against the Sixers.
This example is a clear indication of the NBA needing to make adjustments to their Covid policies. If a player is at risk for transmitting- or you are unsure if they are- there is no reason for him to play. Pulling a guy in the middle of the game due to a test coming back is a failure in the system as the damage could already be done.
It looked as if the Sixers would be pretty much at full strength for this game, but given the recent changes in the Nets roster, the team may be more lenient in their decision to rest guys.
As it is, Mike Scott and Terrance Ferguson are the only players listed as out. Ben Simmons has been upgraded to probable with calf tightness after missing the previous game.
Joel Embiid is also questionable with a knee injury after a scary moment in the Trail Blazers game. It would not be a surprise (and probably the right decision) if he sits out for preventive measures tonight.
Seth Curry is also questionable with an illness. The sharp-shooter has struggled since returning from his bout with Covid and left the previous game due to him feeling sick.
Doc Rivers mentioned that the after-effects of the disease seem to be lingering and that they will handle it with caution as they are in “uncharted waters.“
Sixers Game Time
The Sixers and Nets have matched up already once this season, and the game turned into a victory for the Nets with a score of 122-109. The Nets were without any of their current “big-three” members for this matchup. Joe Harris (28 points) and Caris LeVert (22 points) carried Brooklyn to a win in this one despite Shake Milton scoring 24 points in his only start of the season.
No matter who ends up playing for either side, look for the Sixers to come out with some fire in them tonight. After a disappointing loss to the Trail Blazers, the Sixers need to get back on the right track and put one in the win column.
Expect for James Harden to shoot the ball a ton as he will be the clear-cut number one offensive option for the Nets in this one. Joe Harris will also need to be kept in check as he is explosive when he starts feeling it from deep. The former 3-point champion has knocked down long-range shots at a 49.4% clip so far, ranking 4th in the NBA.
The game tips off at 8:00 PM EST, and the Sixers are currently 4.5 point favorites without KD and Kyrie available to play. It seems as if every game has been a “trap-game” lately, and this matchup has a similar feel to it.
As was seen in the short-handed Trail Blazers game, you can not take any game for granted and look for the Sixers to be mature in their mindset heading into tonight.