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Sixers-Bulls Preview/Game Thread

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No Nerlens :-(

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

2015-2016 NBA REGULAR SEASON
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December 14, 2015
United Center, Chicago, IL
8:00 PM
CSN - Marc Zumoff and Alaa Abdelnaby, Reporter: Molly French
PROBABLE STARTERS
Tony Wroten PG Derrick Rose
Isaiah Canaan SG Jimmy Butler
Robert Covington SF Tony Snell
Richaun Holmes PF Taj Gibson
Jahlil Okafor C Pau Gasol
2015/16 ADVANCED STATS
97.0 (11th) PACE 96.8 (13th)
93.2 (30th) OFF RTG 98.9 (29th)
106.1 (22nd) DEF RTG 105.8 (21st)
Injuries
Sixers: Nerlens Noel // Eye // Out
Bulls: Mike Dunleavy // Back // Out

Much has been made of the Sixers’ 1-24 start, and understandably so. Not only is it the worst start to a season in NBA history, one that puts the team on pace to win somewhere between three and four games by year’s end. But considering even just eye test as opposed to history, there are reasons for serious concern.

A defense that finished last season ranked 13th in the NBA at 104.8 points allowed per 100 possessions now sits at 21st, giving up 106.1. And their offensive rating of 93.2 is on pace to be the lowest in the league for the third consecutive year. But also, too, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic moving forward.

It’s easy to forget that on this date last year, the Sixers were just 2-21 on the season after opening the year 0-17, a feat they matched again this year. Last season’s team eventually turned things around (relatively speaking, of course), after point guard Michael Carter-Williams returned from a shoulder injury and worked his way back to near-full health at the end of November. After MCW was dealt at February’s trade deadline, the Sixers relied heavily upon mid-season signee Ish Smith, a veteran who ran the offense well and got the most out of then-rookie big man Nerlens Noel, as the Sixers fought to an 18-64 record.

This season, injuries have forced the Sixers to run out undrafted rookie T.J. McConnell and shoot-first-second-and-third combo guard Isaiah Canaan at point guard on a nightly basis while Tony Wroten and Kendall Marshall work back from injury. But with the two finally back on the floor (albeit with reduced minutes and a restriction on back to backs to this point), the team is getting some much-needed reinforcements as it approaches its annual two-week trip out west while Disney On Ice takes over the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are some notes on tonight’s meeting with the Bulls:

• Nerlens Noel will miss Monday’s game because of the left eye corneal abrasion that he suffered Sunday night in Toronto. With him out of the lineup, Jerami Grant will likely start at power forward. This would be his 19th start of the season.

• Jahlil Okafor is coming off his third consecutive game with 20 or more points scored, becoming the first Sixers rookie to do so since Allen Iverson nearly two decades ago. During that stretch, Okafor has averaged 22.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game, while shooting 46.6% from the floor and making 13 of his 14 free throws.

• Tony Wroten will play, but Kendall Marshall will get the night off. Brett Brown said prior to the game that Wroten will have no minutes restriction and added that Marshall will likely not have one in Atlanta on Wednesday.

• The Bulls lost three straight games last week against the Hornets, Suns, and Celtics before rattling off back-to-back wins against the Clippers and Pelicans. Chicago is 13-8 and currently controls third place in the East.

• When the Sixers and Bulls played one another on November 9 at the arena at which the Philadelphia 76ers play basketball, Nikola Mirotic led Chicago to a 111-88 victory with 20 points on 11 shots to go along with 10 rebounds and a pair of steals. Jahlil Okafor led the way for Philadelphia with 21 points (9/25 FG), 15 rebounds, and two blocks.