The Sixers will return to action tonight for a matchup with the Clippers as they look to keep control of first-place in the East.
There’s no time for the Philadelphia 76ers to rest on their laurels following the victory over the Brooklyn Nets to secure first place in the Eastern Conference. Philly faces a brutal stretch of upcoming games, and their next matchup will be with the Los Angelos Clippers tonight.
This will be the second time Doc Rivers faces his former team, with the Clippers securing a victory by a score of 122-112 in the first matchup. It is important to note that Joel Embiid was not on the floor for this first game between the two teams. The Sixers now ride a three-game winning streak into this matchup and will look to secure another victory tonight.
The Clippers are currently ranked third in the Western Conference with a record of 39-18 on the season. They average 115 points per game and are the number one ranked team in the league when it comes to offensive efficiency. They are led by the superstar duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who both average over 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists per game.
While they are a team that is sometimes known to underperform, the Clippers have begun to find their stride lately and are coming into this game on a 7-game win streak. The team’s scoring numbers are up during this stretch, and they are shooting 49.7% from the field over their past 10 games. Perhaps most impressive is their improvements on the defensive end. During this 10 game stretch, the Clippers have held opposing teams to just 45.6% shooting and 106 points per game, which is nearly 6 points below the league average.
- Patrick Beverly- OUT (fractured left hand)
- Serge Ibaka- OUT (lower back tightness)
- Kawhi Leonard- Questionable (Right Foot)
The Clippers were without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in their game on Wednesday against the Pistons. Paul George is expected to return as he was given a rest day, but the status of Leonard is more uncertain. Kawhi is a major difference-maker for the Clippers and ranks 6th in the most recent updated NBA MVP ladder, so his status will be one to watch as game time approaches.
The Sixers now hold sole possession of first place in the East with a record of 38-17. Since Joel Embiid’s return from injury, the Sixers have been on a 5-2 run in which they have picked up notable victories over the Celtics, Mavericks, and Nets. Embiid is expected to be available tonight and will look to follow up on his 39-point performance on Wednesday.
Despite the team’s success, Ben Simmons has been under criticism for his recent stretch of play. In these last 7 games that Embiid returned, Simmons is averaging 11.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.9 assists. These are all a notch below his averages on the season, as Simmons has been accounted for 14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.1 assists. Simmons will look to stride again soon, and it certainly important to note that the team has continued to win even during this stretch. If Kawhi Leonard is able to go tonight, Simmons will certainly have his hands full matching up with him.
- George Hill- OUT (Thumb)
- Tobias Harris- Questionable (Right Knee soreness)
- Dwight Howard- Questionable (Left Knee soreness)
There is still no set date for the debut of George Hill as he continues to fully recover from thumb surgery. He will be sidelined for this game, and there is hope he will return within the next week or two. Dwight Howard was given the day off on Wednesday due to some knee soreness, but it is not something expected to be a major deal. Doc Rivers indicated it was primarily a rest day, and it appears likely Howard will return to being available tonight.
There has not been an update on Tobias Harris, but he has been battling soreness over the course of the past week. Harris was given the day off during the recent matchup against the Thunder to address the issue and then has returned for the last two matchups. The issue sparked up again at the end of the Nets game, and Doc Rivers ultimately decided not to put him back in late in the game as he was limping on the knee. The knee is not expected to be a long-term issue, but it may end up giving Tobi a well-earned night off tonight.
With the Nets expected to beat the Hornets tonight, this becomes an extremely important game for the Sixers in terms of seeding. A loss by the Sixers will tie the first-place standings up again, and the goal of securing first-placed has been one that many Sixers players have talked openly about throughout the season.
This is a game that expectations may shift depending on who is able to play and who is out with injuries, but look for the Sixers to take care of business regardless. As per usual, the offense will flow through Joel Embiid, and he will be matched up with Ivica Zubac and DeMarcus Cousins as his primary defenders. Zubac stands 7’0 tall but lacks the impressive footwork and strength that Joel possesses. Cousins is a solid pickup for the Clippers but is far past his prime, so expect Embiid to fill up the stat sheet.
The Sixers are currently 2.5 point favorites, but this has been a line that has shifted throughout the day. Tip-off will be at 7:00, and the game will be on ESPN. The status of Kawhi Leonard and Tobias Harris should both be monitored closely as game time approaches. Regardless, this is a huge matchup for the Sixers as they look to continue to prove their playoff legitimacy.