After the Sixers were able to knock off the Timberwolves in the return of Joel Embiid, they will be back in action in a matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies at 7:00PM. The Grizzlies currently sit at 9th place in the West, with a record of 23-23.
The Sixers and Grizzlies have matched up once already this year which resulted in the Sixers losing by a score of 106-104. Joel Embiid and Seth Curry were each absent for this matchup which led to the Sixers starting Dwight Howard and Tyrese Maxey in their place. Ultimately the team-high 28 points from Shake Milton was not enough as the Sixers ended up taking a loss and they will look to avenge this in tonight’s matchup.
The Grizzlies also faced the Minnesota Timberwolves in their last matchup as well and they were able to take down the TWolves by a score of 120-108 on Friday. This game featured a well-balanced attack from the Grizzlies as they had eight different players score in double-digits.
While they may not be immediate contenders, the Grizzlies feature a young core with the potential to grow into something special. Since the release of Gorgui Deng, the Grizzlies have become the youngest team in the league with an average age of 23.7 years old. They are led by Ja Morant who is averaging 19.3 points and 7.4 assists per game.
The Grizzlies also rely on Jonas Valanciunas to patrol the paint, who averages 16.2 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. They also have a variety of young scoring options such as Dillon Brooks, Desmond Bane, Kyle Anderson, and Brandon Clarke who all are enticing long-term players.
As a whole, the Grizzlies are averaging 111.8 points per game while allowing 110.9. They are not known for their perimeter shooting as the Grizzlies are 28th in the NBA with just 10.6 three-pointers made per game. The Sixers will have to put a focus on protecting the boards as the Grizzlies are second in the league in offensive boards.
Despite his return yesterday, it appears unlikely that Joel Embiid will suit up for this game. In his return last night, Embiid played twenty-nine minutes scoring twenty-four points along with eight rebounds. The big man showed a little rust in his early minutes but still made a major impact in securing the victory.
Joel was unsatisfied with his performance when talking to reporters postgame and bluntly stated that it was a “Great win, but I had a bad game.” Embiid talked about how he will have to work his way back into game shape, but assured that his body feels fine. The biggest complaint out of the 7-footer was getting used to the brace and his movement in it.
While the Sixers exceeded expectations in Embiid’s absence, it is clear that keeping him healthy must be the team’s number one priority. Doc Rivers alluded to this in his post-game presser but the team wants to see how Joel’s body reacts before deciding his status.
George Hill has begun his progression to joining the Sixers but will not suit up for this matchup. Hill was cleared for his first non-contact shoot-around with the Sixers but will not be ready to suit up for today’s matchup due to his thumb injury. The veteran point guard was on the team’s bench for last night’s matchup which indicates his return is not far off.
Sixers Keys to the Game
If Embiid is unable to go, the Sixers will need to dig into the game-plan that led them to their 7-3 record in his absence. This likely means an increase in pace, more of an emphasis on the fast-break, and an uptick in three-point attempts.
Tobias Harris has continued to prove all doubters wrong and is coming off a 32 point performance last night. While Brandon Clarke will be a relatively tough matchup, Harris has been red-hot and should be the focal point of the offense. Tobias has become automatic in the mid-range and this should be the Sixers gameplan early on.
The Sixers must put a focus on stopping Ja Morant as he is the motor that makes the Grizzlies’ offense run. His shifty movements and athletic ability are a tall task for any matchup. This could mean an increase in minutes for the defensive swiss-army knife, Matisse Thybulle. While Ben Simmons is a great defender, Thybulle’s long arms and smaller frame are a cleaner matchup against the 6’3 Memphis guard.
This is expected to be a close game as the Sixers are 3.5 point favorites according to the Vegas lines. There are concerns on the potential energy level as it is the second night of a back-to-back, but the Sixers are certainly the better team in the matchup.