Following a loss to the Warriors, the Sixers are back in action tonight for a matchup with the Phoenix Suns. The Sixers’ lead at the top of the East currently sits at just half of a game, however, the second-place Brooklyn Nets received bad news regarding James Harden as he suffered a setback in his rehab. Harden is now listed as out indefinitely with a hamstring strain which will make the race for first place tougher on the Nets end. Regardless, the Sixers have to face the Bucks in back-to-back games following the Suns’ matchup, so it is important for them to notch a win tonight.
The Suns have exceeded expectations so far this year as they currently have a record of 41-16 and sit at second place in the Western conference. They rank 7th in the league in scoring with 114.7 points per game and 5th in opponents points per game with 108.2.
Devin Booker leads the team in scoring with 25.4 points per game which is in the top-15 in the NBA. He has taken another stride in his development this season and continued on the momentum that was shown in the Suns’ 8-0 performance in the Orlando bubble. The biggest acquisition for the Suns this offseason was Chris Paul. The fifteen-year vet has continued to revive his career in Phoenix by providing veteran leadership and all-star production. Similar to what was seen in his time with the Thunder, Paul has provided stability for the youthful Suns squad and added 15.7 points and 8.8 assists per game himself.
It is seemingly rare for Joel Embiid to look his matchup on in the eye, but Deandre Ayton is one of the few exceptions to this. The former first overall pick has a reputation of a great defender which could work in the Sixers’ favor if they choose to leave the two alone in one-on-one coverage. Embiid was able to add 35 points in the matchup between the two earlier in the season and has had success against Ayton throughout his career.
- Dario Saric- Probable (left ankle soreness)
- Abdel Nader– OUT (right knee soreness)
- Cam Johnson– Probable (nasal fracture)
The Suns will be without the 6.7 points and 2.6 rebounds per game that Abdel Nadar adds but are otherwise expected to have their full squad. Process hero, Dario Saric is still expected to play tonight despite some left ankle soreness. Cam Johnson is continuing to deal with a nasal fracture but he was able to play the last two games with a face mask so it is not expected to be an issue tonight.
This game is next on the list in the Sixers grueling stretch of games against legitimate contenders. While it may not seem as intimidating as some of the other matchups, this is every bit as difficult of a game. In their matchup earlier in the year, the Sixers fell to the Suns by a score of 120-111 even with their full-strength roster. The Sixers lacked bench production in this matchup as the starters produced 91 of the team’s 111 points.
- Ben Simmons– Questionable (Illness)
- Tobias Harris– Questionable (knee soreness)
- Joel Embiid- Questionable (knee)
- Seth Curry- Questionable (left hip flexor)
It is very clear that the Sixers missed both Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons in the previous matchup. The Sixers struggled to find a secondary scorer down the stretch as Joel Embiid continually faced multiple defenders. Despite being the first Sixer to be ruled out of the previous matchup, Doc Rivers was not very concerned with the health of Tobias Harris and is hopeful to have him back soon. Ben Simmons is battling a non-Covid illness and it is unclear if he will be able to make his return today. Getting back at least one of these stars is essential to the Sixers being able to secure a victory tonight.
This will be a difficult matchup for the Sixers no matter what, but getting Tobias Harris and/or Ben Simmons back into the lineup is extremely important to the Sixers’ possible success. The Suns have several talented wing players that could create some matchup problems for the Sixers, especially if two of their stars are unable to go.
Doc Rivers recently spoke about his desire to implement a lineup of one big man and four guards, so keep an eye out for this plan tonight. The addition of George Hill has helped to create this possibility and a lineup with Hill, Danny Green, Seth Curry, Shake Milton, and Joel Embiid could be an interesting look for the Sixers. Surrounding Embiid with this many shooters is one way to combat the constant double-teams that he faces.
The line is likely to shift one way or another when final decisions on availability are made, but the Suns are currently one-point favorites in the matchup. It is rare for the Sixers not to be favorites at home, as they have a 22-6 record at the Wells Fargo Center, but tonight is a tough matchup for the team. The Sixers will likely have to find a burst of unexpected production from the supporting cast if they are to secure a win tonight. The game will tip-off at 7 pm and be on NBATV.
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