Don’t look now, but the Sixers are getting hot. Sitting at third place in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers have won 14 of their last 17 games, including the previous four straight. In the midst of a five-game home-stand, the Philadelphia 76ers will shift their attention to a matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies tonight.
Who Are the Memphis Grizzlies?
The Grizzlies have been one of the most pleasant surprises so far this NBA season. The youthful squad has made the leap in development more rapidly than most have expected, and they hold a record of 35-17 on the year. Trailing only the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference standings, the Grizzlies are an exciting team to watch and a difficult matchup for the Sixers.
Memphis is led by Ja Morant, who is averaging 26.1 points, 6.8 assists, and 6.0 rebounds per game so far this season. The 22-year-old became just the second Grizzlies player to be named an all-star starter, and this is the first time he has made the all-star team in his young career. Morant’s eye-popping athleticism and crafty finishing ability make him extremely dangerous as a slasher which unlocks the rest of his game.
It has been an interesting year for the Grizzlies, who started the season with a 9-10 record before Morant missed some time with a knee sprain. The team heated up during Morant’s absence and had a record of 10-2 in the games without. This hot streak continued once Ja returned to the court as the Grizz have won 16 of their last 21 games, including a franchise-record 11-straight games during the stretch.
This will be the second time the Sixers face the Grizzlies this season, with Memphis coming out on top in the first matchup. The Grizzlies blew out the Sixers 126-91 on December 13th, but it is important to note that Joel Embiid was not active for this matchup, and Philly was playing much worse basketball at the time. This will not be an easy matchup for the Sixers as the Grizzlies have a ton of lengthy athletic players who tend to give the Sixers issues- such as Jaren Jackson Jr, Desmond Bane, and Brandon Clarke.
Sixers Injury Report
- Shake Milton- OUT (back)
- Furkan Korkmaz- Questionable (left knee soreness)
- Ben Simmons– OUT (personal)
Shake Milton will miss his 14th straight game with his back injury, with still no target date for his return. The initial injury occurred on January 3rd, so it has been nearly a month since Shake has played. The Sixers have missed his ball-handling abilities on the court, but Milton has begun some on-court activities, which is a positive sign.
Furkan Korkmaz picked up his injury in the previous matchup with the Sacramento Kings. It has been a difficult stretch for Furkan, whose three-point percentage has slipped to 28.8% on the year. He was able to stay in the game after awkwardly coming to a jump stop but was clearly in discomfort after the fact. There likely will be more clarity on his status as tip-off inches closer.
This will be a tough matchup for the Sixers, but it feels as if they have a chance in just about every game right now. The Grizzlies have much more length and athleticism than the Sixers, and these have been the matchups they have struggled with the most this year. Matisse Thybulle will likely be called on for more minutes in an attempt to counter this.
The Sixers have opened up as 3.5 point favorites by most sportsbooks. The Eastern Conference is such a tight race with the 1-6 seeds separated by only 2.5 games, making each game so important. Tip-off will take place at 7:00 PM at the Wells Fargo Center.