The Sixers start off the home stretch of the NBA season with the toughest schedule remaining in the league and take on the Memphis Grizzlies who are currently in 2nd place in the Western Conference.
Grizzlies vs Sixers game info:
Who: Memphis Grizzlies (35-22) at Philadelphia 76ers (38-19)
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pa.
When: 7:30 PM EST
Grizzlies vs Sixers betting info
Spread: Grizzlies +3.5 | Sixers -3.5
Moneyline: Grizzlies +135 | Sixers -155
Total: 230 points
Eye on the Sixers:
Joel Embiid was part of the league’s All-Star game this past Sunday while the rest of the team was able to use their week off to rest up. This is exactly what the Sixers needed and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Embiid looks like he’ll continue his year-long dominance, coming into the game averaging 33.1 points per game, 10.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. While he may be further down in the MVP race than he’d like to be, he’s been one of the most consistently dominant players in the league. There aren’t many, if any, players that can physically match up with Embiid.
James Harden is the key for the team. He’s currently 7th in the league in minutes played per game. While most people will look at Hardens scoring as being down to 21.4 points per game, you’d have to look back to his second year in the league to find a time when he’s taken fewer shots per game.
He’s shooting 45.1% from the floor but his 38.9% on three-point attempts is the second-highest of his career, going back to that same year in OKC. Harden has been more efficient and has looked like he’s regained the step that people thought he lost over the past two or three seasons. He’s running the offense, not taking it over. Harden leads the league in assists with 10.8 per game and that may go up as the season winds down.
We’ll have to see how Doc Rivers uses guard Tyrese Maxey for the rest of the season. While Maxey has done well in the 6th man role, since returning from injury, he truly thrives when he’s on the floor with Harden and Embiid.
Eye on the Grizzlies
The big piece missing from the Grizzlies is Steven Adams. He’s been out since January 24th with a PCL sprain in his right knee and has now missed the last 11 games. In those games, the Grizzlies have gone 4-7. He’s a huge defensive presence and is consistently one of the top offensive rebounders in the league. Not having him on the floor, even against a team like the Sixers that doesn’t rebound particularly well, is a huge hole to fill for the team.
What the Grizzlies do have is Ja Morant. In his fourth season and only 23 years old, Morant is averaging 27.3 points, 6 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game. He’s right in line with his stats from last season when he had a breakout year and was virtually a nightly highlight reel.
Desmond Bane had missed time earlier in the season but has been very good since his return in December. He’s averaging 21.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.2 assists in his 31 minutes per game. The backcourt duo of Bane and Morant is shooting 46.5% from the field, combined. What Bane brings is a different level of shooting though. He’s shooting 42.7% on his three-point attempts, good for 6th in the league, and he’s shooting 90.2% from the free-throw line.
Jaren Jackson Jr. is going to be tasked with defending Embiid, with Adams out. That doesn’t bode well for Jackson. While he’s having a good season, averaging 16.9 points per game to go along with 6.9 rebounds, Jackson is leading the league with 3.3 blocks per game. Jackson just hasn’t had to deal with anyone like Embiid though. It’s going to be tough.
What to look for:
The Sixers have to come out and get a win to start the final push for the playoffs. They’ve been one of the top two teams in the league over the past two months. They’ve played very well as a unit but have seen dramatic drops in the game when their coach has been going to an all-bench second unit on the floor. Rivers has to get this under control and manage the rotation better than he has.
While the Grizzlies have been struggling without Adams, they’re able to defend very well and can put up points quickly. They’re going to try to get Bane and Morant out running and scoring quickly, in a bid to keep the Sixers’ defense on its heels. While Jackson Jr. is a formidable player, he’s not of the caliber of Joel Embiid and he is averaging 5 fouls per game. If he gets into foul trouble early, the game could get out of control, quickly.
The Grizzlies will have to play their absolute best in order to stick with the Sixers. On the Philly side, they’re going to have to deploy a good rotation and get players like Georges Niang, Shake Milton, and newcomer Jalen McDaniels, involved with a couple of starters on the floor. The rotation is the key to a Sixers victory. If they’re putting out a complete bench unit, the Grizzlies could run them right out of the Wells Fargo Center.
Prediction: Sixers 118 – Grizzlies 111
Grizzlies vs Sixers betting info
AP Photo/Chris Szagola