The Sixers got a much-needed victory last night against the Denver Nuggets, recovering from a collapse against the Blazers and winning without the franchise centerpiece. With Joel Embiid in tow, the Sixers look to win on a back-to-back tonight in Phoenix.
The team is looking to avenge their earlier loss to the Suns, a 14-point defeat that was embarrassing at the time. Devin Booker lit up the Sixers for 46 points and looked nearly unstoppable, but lazy early transition defense and a lack of energy were what got the team behind in the first half. Booker’s second half surge just kept the Sixers at an arm’s length for the remainder of the game.
Phoenix has been a 40% win percentage team under interim head coach Jay Triano, with several of their young players looking much improved and providing consistent effort as the season has gone on. The Sixers will need to match that, which relates to the first of our three keys to watch for:
- Energy - the Sixers will be adjusting from the altitude of Denver, CO to the sunny desert in Phoenix. The Nuggets don’t take advantage of their altitude with pace like historical Denver teams have, but Phoenix may be primed to take advantage of the back-to-back. Phoenix is top 5 in pace by virtually every measure of it, which could draw the Sixers into fast-paced shootout they’re ill-equipped to win via just their below-average perimeter shooting when they’re playing on a second night after travel.
- Embiid vs. Chandler - Tyson Chandler has been in the NBA long enough to acquire dad strength. He’s seen some stuff. And Joel Embiid’s trash talk is not going to faze him. Instead, let’s focus on what Embiid can do against him. First, Chandler is not likely to chase Embiid out to the three point line, so Embiid should be able to get open threes fairly frequently if he’s willing to let them fly (spoiler: he should). But Embiid’s tricks probably will be useless - he’ll need to focus and finish strong rather than troll his opponents into oblivion.
- Defending Booker - Devin Booker commands a lot of attention from opposing defenses, and the Sixers obviously need to contain him better than in the prior matchup to win. I’d like to see Ben Simmons get the assignment here. Phoenix is using Tyler Ulis, a 5’10” point guard as their current starter in the backcourt alongside Booker. Aside from him, old friend Isaiah Canaan is getting the remaining backup point minutes. I’d elect to use J.J. Redick as the primary defender on Ulis/Canaan and Simmons on Booker to start, with Robert Covington getting the assignment for T.J. Warren (an isolation scorer who can also light it up with opportunity). I’d also mix up the defenders and give T.J. McConnell a shot on Booker, as Booker isn’t quite tall enough to simply rise over T.J. like many other wings.
Bonus BINGO Section:
Okay, so because New Year’s Eve is typically not a heavy traffic game for fans, I figure that mostly die-hards and people who have nothing better to do (*raises hand*) are going to be following along with the game. Because of that, I figured to put into action something that I’ve informally done in my head for a while: interactive Sixers bingo. Since it’s New Year’s Eve, it also works as a drinking game. Do as you please.
Upon investigation into whether this was done live for a game before, I determined that (1) it hasn’t been and (2) someone from Sixers Reddit created a single bingo card for action that isn’t quite, mmmm, Sixersy enough. I went full team-depreciation for this one.
There are 30 tiles including the free tile, and by clicking the link below you’ll automatically generate a card with 25 of those. I’ll track during the game live which boxes get checked off. I’m not sure what we’ll do when we hit Bingo, but it should be fun to monitor and maybe look at the game in a lighter way. You can find a link to get an automatically generated bingo card here.
Start Time: 8:00 PM EST
Place: Talking Stick Resort Arena (lol)
Watch/Listen: NBC Sports Philadelphia/97.5 The Fanatic
Injuries: Korkmaz/Fultz continue to sit for the Sixers, Suns have Brandon Knight and Alan Williams out long-term with injuries.
Officials: Sean Wright, Nick Buchert, Jonathan Sterling