The Philadelphia 76ers are back in action tonight following the blowout victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in the season opener. The team has returned to Philly for their first true test against the Eastern Conference favorites, the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets fell to the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks on opening night and will be in search of redemtion tonight. Here are three storyline to watch from the Sixers perspective heading into the home opener:
Joel Embiid’s Status:
After receiving some treatment on his knee during the first game, Joel Embiid is currently listed as questionable. If he is unable to suit up it would be a devastating blow to the Sixers who rely so heavily on their superstar. It is somewhat concerning that this issue has popped up so early on in the season for Embiid, but the issue does not seem to be anything serious.
More likely than not Embiid will take the court with the rest of the Sixers and be prepared to make an impact in the matchup. Embiid was able to spend some extra time on the sideline in Wednesdays game because of the blowout and clocked just 26 minutes of action. He scored 22 points along with 6 rebounds and 5 assists during this time and it was nice that it did not take a draining performance from Joel to secure the win.
It will be a much more difficult task in tonight’s game so expect some more minutes out of Embiid. He will likely be matched up with Blake Griffin and Nic Claxton tonight, which are both favorable matchups for the MVP candidate. Look for Embiid to make a statement that the Sixers are still legitimate contenders and do everything possible to keep the Sixers in the game.
Point Guard Furk
As a result of the Ben Simmons drama and Shake Milton injury, Furkan Korkmaz was tasked with the job of running point guard with the second unit. The 24-year-old looked natural in the new role and exploded for 22 points and 5 points. He also shot 4-4 from beyond the arc and was almost singlehandedly responsible for pushing the game to a blowout in the fourth quarter.
While this level of production is not something that can be counted on regularly, Furkan deserves a full chance at the backup point guard role. His threat as a shooter opens up passing lanes and he had several nice finds to his teammates in the Pelicans game. Furk has experience in a more ball-dominant role during his time with the Turkish National Team, and this was effective in game one. The Sixers will still need to add an additional ball-handler at some point this season but for the moment it will be fun to watch Furkan run the point against a more talented team.
Tyrese Maxey’s Development
Opening night was a successful start to Tyrese Maxey‘s sophomore season in the NBA. It has seemingly been overshadowed by so many other storylines, but Maxey ended with 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in 34 minutes of play. It was a quietly productive night for Maxey and he continues to show the feel of a player wise beyond his years.
Tonight’s matchup with the Nets will be an exciting challenge for Maxey. The emphasis he has put on improving his defense will be put to the test and it will be a chance to see if Maxey can be relied on as a major contributor against a high-level opponent. There are certain to be ups and down with the 20-year-old throughout the season, but the early signs of Maxey continue to be exciting.
While the number will likely shift based on Joel Embiid’s status, the Nets are currently 2.5 point favorites over the Sixers heading into the matchup. It will be exciting to see the Wells Fargo Center back to full capacity and the reaction to whether or not Ben Simmons elects to make an appearance. If the Sixers are able to secure a win tonight it would certainly be a statement that the off-the-court drama is clouding how focused and talented this team truly is.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire