Joel Embiid will not be traveling to Indiana as the 76ers take on the Pacers tonight, as he’ll be resting due to “load management” according to the team. It’ll be the first game Embiid sits out this season that’s not a back-to-back, which, unfortunately, might happen more than originally expected before the Sixers re-evaluate Embiid’s minute restriction around Christmas time. An Embiid-less team certainly screams “unwatchable, infuriating loss” at first thought, but the Sixers are catching Indiana at a time when the Pacers are reeling.
Indiana, now sitting at 3-4, got run off the court on the road against the Charlotte Hornets Monday night in a 122-100 loss. Four Hornets reserves were in double figures due to a poor Pacers bench (hey, the Sixers have one of those too!), which has Jahlil Okafor’s spiritual ancestor Al Jefferson anchoring the second unit. Paul George shot just 33.3 percent from the floor for only 10 points.
“We’re all out of whack,” George said following the game. “There’s no trust. There’s no chemistry. There’s no belief. We’re just kind of lifeless right now.”
With a new coach in Nate McMillan, whose style contradicts what the franchise should building for a team around George and second-year center Myles Turner (shameless plug for a breakdown I wrote on Turner yesterday), plus a supporting cast that doesn’t fit super well around the George/Turner duo, this team seems combustible. Larry Bird has been involved in two George Hill trades in the last five years and has lost both of them. Ouch.
Matching up with a team in disarray for the first of a home-and-home set, the Sixers have a decent shot to grab their first win of the season in one of these contests. I’m just much more inclined to think it happens at home with Embiid in the lineup on Friday.
- The Okafor/Turner matchup is a battle between two players who various people would consider the second-best big man from last year’s draft class. Okafor could use a bounce back game after a rough all-around performance on Monday against the Utah Jazz and will have a formidable opponent standing in his way in Turner, a good defender who leads the league in block rate at 8.0 percent.
- Jeff Teague has been brutal as Indiana’s starting point guard this year, shooting just 32.5 percent from the field. This past summer’s trade rumors concerning a swap of him and Nerlens Noel seem forever ago at this point. While many have certainly lowered their stance for what constitutes a fair return for Noel, me included, I still wouldn’t want Teague on the Sixers. Though it’s just been seven games, Teague’s assist rate of 31.8 percent is his worst since becoming a starter during the 2013 season.
- Check out a statical preview of tonight from our friends at NumberFire: