The Philadelphia 76ers (4-5) will face their first game with a James Harden-less lineup following the All-Star guard’s R. foot tendon injury that will keep him out for the next month. The Sixers will play the New York Knicks (3-4) at home, with both teams looking to bounce back from tough losses at home this week.
When: Thursday, November 4th, 2022
Tipoff: 7 pm EST
Where: Philadelphia, PA | Wells Fargo Center
How to watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBA League Pass
The New York Knicks
The New York Knicks have faced remarkably similar struggles to the Philadelphia 76ers so far this season. A coach who struggles to adjust and is reluctant to play young players, bench players with far fewer minutes than they should have, and a struggling starting lineup despite the team’s massive financial investments.
It’s fitting then that both teams have come out of the first month of the season just below .500, and as a result, tonight’s matchup could mean serious consequences for whoever underperforms. The Knicks picked up their third straight loss on Wednesday, blowing a 23-point lead at home to the Dejounte Murray-led Atlanta Hawks (after guard Trae Young suffered an eye injury) to finish the game 112-99.
While Jalen Brunson is as solid as ever, putting up 20 points in Wednesday’s matchup, the rest of the starting lineup put up a measly 44 combined points. With R.J Barrett and Julius Randle shooting a respective 23.7% and 20.7% from deep this far this season, the Knicks are dealing with some serious concerns that have fans questioning if it’s time to fire head coach Tom Thibodeau.
That said, the Knicks have found some bright spots, particularly in their bench. PF Obi Toppin has averaged 10 points and 3.4 rebounds in 15 minutes per game in his last five appearances while shooting 51% from the field and a remarkable 47.4% from three. SG Quentin Grimes has also emerged as a solid, if undersized, defensive threat, with his ability to break up passes and heckle larger shot-makers.
Indeed, the Knicks’ defensive rating last season per 100 possessions was 5.7 points better when Grimes was on the floor. Yet Grimes has been battling a foot injury from back in the preseason that’s landed him on a minutes restriction, further solidifying Thibodeau’s hesitations to give him meaningful minutes (he made his season debut for just five minutes in Wednesday’s game). With the Sixers down their strongest playmaker, the Knicks have an opportunity to shore up their defense.
The Philadelphia 76ers
Things can never just be blue skies for too long in Philadelphia, huh? A right foot tendon strain picked up in Wednesday’s 121-111 game has sidelined James Harden for the next month, which is particularly poor timing alongside Joel Embiid’s non-COVID illness from the past week. With Embiid and Matisse Thybulle (ankle sprain) both being listed as questionable for tonight’s game, the Sixers will especially need their bench players to step up to the plate as the season progresses.
That’s certainly not an impossible task. Offseason acquisition De’Anthony Melton took a few games to find his groove in a new team but has since settled in nicely, putting up double-digit points in each of his last five games while shooting 54.3% from the field and 42.9% from deep. Georges Niang has also come into his own right, averaging 13 points and 2.7 rebounds in the last three games.
And, of course, there’s Bball Paul.
I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but we all know. Paul Reed has demonstrated massive potential as a two-way power forward, shooting a career 54% from the field while holding the likes of DeMar DeRozan and even Giannis Antetokounmpo to 11 and 12 points, respectively, last season. Yet despite his showings, Doc Rivers refuses to give him the meaningful minutes he needs to turn into a true rotational player.
Bball Paul’s minor faux-pas — things like being too quick on the ball before making a solid read or falling for pump fakes — aren’t things he’s going to get better at unless given the opportunity to do so. And the regular season — not the playoffs like last year — are the time for that development to happen. With the Philadelphia 76ers battling injuries and defensive woes, now is the perfect time to solidify Reed’s spot in the rotation.
And no look at this team would be complete without praise for the explosive growth of fhe future of the franchise. Tyrese Maxey continues to be one of the team’s biggest bright spots, with fans, teammates, and even opponents looking at him and saying, “Can you believe this kid?!”.
In his last five starts, Maxey has averaged nearly 30 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 0.2 blocks per game. He’s shooting 56.7% from the field, 53.7% from deep, and 73.9% from the line. Those are All-Star numbers, and if he can keep this team afloat with Harden out the same way he did with Ben Simmons, his name will absolutely be up there for All-NBA discussions.
As of this writing, the Knicks had no injuries to report. The Philadelphia 76ers will be without James Harden (R. foot tendon strain), while Joel Embiid (non-COVID illness) and Matisse Thybulle (ankle) are questionable. Embiid has been able to practice over the last couple of days.