Sixers Look to Shake Injury Woes in Thunder Matchup

Philadelphia 76ers
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 01: Philadelphia 76ers Guard Shake Milton (18) looks on during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers on March 1, 2020 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

Spirits feel abnormally low for what has otherwise been an impressive season for the 76ers. Now riding a four-game losing streak, the Sixers will be back in action tonight against the tanking Thunder. The Sixers are now a game and a half out of first place and will look to start off a three-game homestand on a high note. The game will tip-off at seven o’clock and the Sixers are 10.5 point favorites heading into the matchup.

Sixers Injury Woes

The Sixers are seemingly in a fragile state as the injury bug has begun to take its toll on the team. Ben Simmons has missed the last four games and will be out again tonight due to illness. It is unclear exactly what he is dealing with, but Ben is seemingly dealing with a more serious issue than it originally seemed.

Doc Rivers and the rest of the Sixers personnel have been very vague with what is going on with Simmons but he was ruled out of the matchup yesterday. Simmons was just upgraded to questionable, per John Clark. Joel Embiid also was ruled out in the minutes leading up to the recent Bucks game. He has most recently been dealing with shoulder soreness, but it seems the day served as more of a rest day for the big man. Embiid is listed as questionable with the shoulder issue once again heading into this one.

Tobias Harris has also made his way back to the injury report after missing three games due to a bone bruise on his right knee. Harris is listed as questionable for the game due to his right knee recovery and it is unclear if he will be able to go. Tobias returned for each of the Bucks matchups but did not seem to fully find his rhythm and only scored 9 points in the last game.

On top of the Sixers’ three stars, Furkan Korkmaz and Paul Reed are also listed as questionable for the matchup. Furkan is dealing with a right ankle sprain and missed the previous two matchups with the Bucks. Paul Reed is questionable due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, which likely means he will have to test negative for COVID to confirm his availability.

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Process-Like Thunder Team

The Thunder have mainly made news for their unreal collection of picks that they have put together. With a ridiculous 34 picks in the next seven drafts, the Thunder have clearly put a focus on building for the future. Their lineup features a unique collection of high potential youth, showing similarities from the Process Sixers.

Daryl Morey and the Sixers still owe the Thunder a few thank you’s for agreeing to swap Danny Green for Al Horford in the offseason and freeing the Sixers of their $100+ million problem. The Thunder searched for another trade partner for Horford at the deadline but were unsuccessful. As it is, Sweet Al has agreed to sit out the remainder of the season as Oklahoma City turns to its younger players in order development. Horford is expected to be traded in the offseason which will still be a daunting task given the two years and $53.5 million that remains on his deal.

The Thunder have also continued to be without their star, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The former 11th overall pick had been averaging 23.7 points, 5.9 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game prior to his injury. SGA was officially diagnosed with plantar fasciitis on March 12th and has yet to return. The Thunder are in no rush to get Shai back, as they currently have the fifth-highest lottery odds and will look to keep their focus on adding and developing talent rather than winning games at this point in time.

Josh Hall (knee) and Luguentz Dort (hip) will also be out of tonight’s matchup. Dort has been a fun player to watch so far in his young career. Cut from a similar mold as Mattisse Thybulle, Dort has made a name for himself as one of the premier perimeter defenders. The second-year player has also added some layers to the offensive side of his game this season and averages 14 points per game.

As far as players that will be active, the Thunder showcase a unique collection of young players all capable of putting together a surprising performance. Aleksej Pokusevski is an extremely intriguing prospect the Thunder drafted with the 17th pick in last year’s draft. Standing at 7 feet tall, Poku flashes exciting passing ability and handles despite his slender frame. He has the potential to develop into something special if he can begin to put on more weight and continue his development.

Darius Bazely and Moses Brown also have exceeded expectations on the year and proven to find success in their roles. Former Sixer, Tony Bradley has now played 15 games with the Thunder since being traded for George Hill and is averaging 9.2 points and 6.4 rebounds during this stretch.

Importance for Sixers:

With the tough stretch of games from the past week officially in the past, the Sixers will look to steer the ship back toward the win column this week. The youthful Thunder are far less talented than the Sixers, but this must not be a game that is overlooked- especially considering the Sixers’ injuries. Regardless of who is able to suit up tonight, the Sixers must take care of business and secure a victory.

The continued absence of Ben Simmons likely means George Hill will continue to start at point guard. Given the indication from Doc Rivers that Joel Embiid could have played in the previous game if it was a playoff game, it seems likely he will return today. The injury report will need to be carefully monitored as the day advances but it is important to secure a victory no matter who is able to suit up tonight.

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire