By all standards, the 2016-17 season has been one of vast improvement for the Philadelphia 76ers. Their statistics have been up across the board this year, which has naturally led to the team achieving their highest win total since 2012-13. But as the season begins to wind down, the Sixers are crawling to the finish line.
Injuries and trades haven’t helped the situation, of course. Joel Embiid was the primary reason the team played at such a high level during the early portion of the year, and Nerlens Noel didn’t miss a beat when his role was expanded over the final few months of his tenure in Philadelphia.
Still, over the past three games they’ve had one difficult, entertaining victory sandwiched in between two losses of at least 25 points.
Detroit’s 136-106 drudging of the nine man Sixers team on Saturday evening was their first 30-point defeat on the year. The Pistons had four players score 20 points or more on the evening, and as a whole shot 56.8 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from beyond the arc. For a team that ranks just 24th in offensive efficiency, Philadelphia’s performance on the defensive end was the exact opposite of awe inspiring. That was also without the team’s resident turnstile Jahlil Okafor in the lineup, who missed another game with right knee soreness.
Since Richaun Holmes is the team’s only healthy center at the moment, the Sixers were forced to call up Shawn Long from the Delaware 87ers. Thus far in his career, Long has been best known as the guy who accidentally broke Ben Simmons’ foot in training camp. He’s spent the entire season with the Delaware 87ers where he’s averaged 20.2 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. The Sixers were able to add Long to the roster due to the NBA’s hardship waiver, which allows a team to add a 16th man to the roster if they’ve had four players miss at least three games. Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jerryd Bayless, and Tiago Splitter are well over the three game minimum at this point.
If Long does indeed suit up for Monday’s game, it’s quite possible he could be immediately thrown into game action. Brett Brown gave fellow 10-day signee Justin Harper five minutes of action during his first game with the team. If Okafor once again isn’t able to go, Long could potentially see a decent portion of the available backup minutes. Gerald Henderson’s status for the game is also unknown, as he’s missed the previous two games with hip soreness. Anderson will be the likely beneficiary of the additional minutes if Henderson is still unable to go.
Back in October, I never imagined that I’d be focusing most of a March game preview on injuries and the signing of a 10-day player, but here we are.
There is undoubtedly a certain nostalgic feeling to this whole situation, and not caring about game outcomes as two unknowns named Justin Harper and Shawn Long rack up minutes for the Sixers while their young studs sit injured on the bench brings me back to a simpler time. Make sure you remember those two names for the updated “Can you name all the Sixers players during The Process?” Sporcle quiz.
The Bucks are winners of two straight, including back-to-back victories over the Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto Raptors. They currently sit just 1.5 GB of the Detroit Pistons for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: CSN Philly
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic