Sixers Look to Bounce Back Against the Oklahoma City Thunder

Tobias Harris
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 01: Philadelphia 76ers Forward Tobias Harris (12) 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)

Following a heartbreaking collapse in the home-opener against the Nets, the Sixers will look to get back on track against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The game will take place in Oklahoma City and will be the Thunder’s first home game of the season.

Who are the OKC Thunder?

The Thunder are in an interesting spot as a franchise as they are loaded with young talent and draft picks that they hope to develop. They are headlined by 22-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who averaged 23.7 points per game with the team last season. SGA is a talented guard who has taken the keys to the Thunder’s rebuild and established himself as a cornerstone piece of the franchise.

The remainder of the roster is made up of some very intriguing young guys such as Australian rookie Josh Giddey, former Villanova standout Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Darius Bazley. They also are in the process of developing the unique skillset of Aleksej Pokusevski and intriguing rookie Tre Mann. The Thunder are still a few years away from truly competing, but have enough talent that the Sixers cannot take them likely.

Who Can Handle Big-Man Minutes?

Just two games into the season, the Sixers are already facing injury concerns. It is clear that Joel Embiid is not at 100% as he has yet to log more than 30 minutes in either game and has been seen getting his knee worked on throughout each game. Given that the Thunder are regarded as one of the lower-tiered teams in the league and Embiid’s admittance that he probably should not have played in the Nets matchup, this seems like an opportunity for him to get healthy.

The appearance of Andre Drummond on the injury report is concerning for the Sixers. The 28-year-old has been extremely impressive in the first two games and has proven he can be much more impactful than any other backup that Joel Embiid has been paired with. This would be a game that Drummond would likely start if he was able, but his ankle injury seems likely to hold him out.

If the Sixers are without their top two big men, Doc Rivers will be forced to dig deeper into the bench. This could serve as a great opportunity for Paul Reed and, second-round pick, Charles Bassey to get some extended minutes. Bball Paul showed some success last season and secured the G-League MVP award as proof of this. The 22-year-old is pure chaos on the court but has elements to his game that no other big man on the roster has shown. If he can show signs that he is putting the pieces together and improving, it could go a long way to increasing his long-term role with the Sixers.

Sixers Must Show Mental Toughness:

The loss against the Nets was an extremely tough pill to swallow. The Sixers looked very impressive for the first three and a half quarters before completely collapsing in the end. Holding a lead for 47 minutes and managing to find a way to lose in front of the home crowd in a similar way to the playoff collapses that occurred just a few months ago hurts.

Despite this, the Sixers must pick up the pieces and move on. There are still 80 more games in the regular season and the Sixers must refocus and prepare for a win over the Thunder. It is difficult to move on after such a heartbreaking loss but the Sixers must do exactly that. With the uncertainty of Embiid’s status, even more responsibility will fall on Tobias Harris to make sure the youthful Sixers team has their minds squared away. Even considering the Thunder are a lower-tiered team in the league this is not a game the Sixers can take lightly.

The Sixers opened up as 11.5 point favorites in the matchup, but this number will likely decrease when there is more clarity on the injury report. Regardless of who is able to play, the Sixers should be able to take care of business on the road and get back in the win column.

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire