Sixers looking Bullish ahead of clash with Chicago

Tyrese Maxey, 76ers
CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 06: Philadelphia 76ers Guard Tyrese Maxey (0) dribbles the ball past Chicago Bulls Guard Malcolm Hill (14) during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls on February 6, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

The Chicago Bulls are coming into Philadelphia to take on the Sixers tonight. They’re not doing well of late as they’ve lost four games in a row, while the Sixers are 4-1 in that span but are coming off a huge loss to the first-place Miami Heat this past Saturday.

The Bulls are limping

The Bulls have been hurting defensively. They’ve lost both Lonzo Ball (knee) and Alex Caruso (wrist) along with Patrick Williams (knee). Center Nikola Vucevic (Hamstring) is also listed as questionable. That doesn’t bode well for a team that’s going to be up against a full-strength Sixers unit. Philadelphia needs to capitalize on that with better perimeter play than they showed against the Heat.

What the Bulls do have going for them is DeMar DeRozan, in the middle of his own MVP caliber season, and Zach Lavine showing that he’s much more than a dunker. DeRozan is averaging 28.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.1 assists this season and playing on another level since coming over in a trade with the Spurs, prior to the season.

Over the past couple of years, Lavine has developed into a more complete player. He’s averaging 24.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. Will those two be enough to slow down the Sixers? More than likely, no.

Sixers look to bounce back

James Harden will make his return to the lineup after missing the Heat game due to resting. The Sixers are a completely different team with Harden on the floor. The attention he commands from opposing teams is what allows Joel Embiid to operate freely and has shown that it really opens the floor for guard Tyrese Maxey. Both had somewhat disappointing games against the Heat.

While Embiid had 22 points and 15 rebounds, the 4-15 shooting from the floor, including 0-6 on three-pointers was what really hurt the team as the Heat threw everything they had at the big man in order to frustrate him. Maxey, who continued his hot shooting, still only managed 17 points on 7-14 shooting. With Harden in the lineup, expect to see a large shift in production.

Sixers keys to victory

Having their big three on the floor at the same time has been working well since Harden’s arrival. They’ll need to keep that momentum going with his return.

Besides the trio of Embiid, Harden, and Maxey, the Sixers need production from their bench and role players. Tobias Harris, who’s had a hard time finding his role in the new-look Sixers lineup, has to get more in- ine with what the team is doing. Harden has been encouraging him to shoot the three-pointers when the ball is passed to him, instead of trying to put it on the floor and driving. Harris had 16 points against the Heat but only shot 6-15 from the floor. That has to get better and will take some time as he searches for a comfortable spot in the lineup.

Aside from Harris, players like Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle, and Danny Green need to greatly improve from what they’ve been doing. Thybulle, never known for his scoring has been held scoreless over the past two games after averaging 10 points over the previous three. His defense on DeRozan and LaVine is going to be a huge key to the Sixers winning.

Georges Niang, the most emotional and fiery player on the Sixers, has been playing very well since Harden spoke to him right after being acquired and told him to shoot more three-pointers. Niang had 9 points against the Heat on 4-11 shooting including 1-8 on threes.

For the Sixers, this is a comeback game. unfortunately, for the reeling Bulls, this isn’t going to be a fun game for them. Embiid will be back to his normal self and the backcourt of Harden and Maxey will be running up the score.

Betting information

Spread: 76ers – 7.5
Moneyline: 76ers -305
Total: 232.5

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Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire