4-4 isn’t where the Philadelphia 76ers thought they’d be after eight games of this NBA season, but that’s the reality we’re living in as the team has struggled to find the right lineups and has dealt with injury concerns along the way.
Thursday’s meeting with the Los Angeles Clippers, though, should present the Sixers with a chance to bound over the .500 barrier and get things headed in the right direction. There are winnable games coming up, including a back-to-back this weekend against the Pistons (on a three game losing streak) and the Nets (who just beat the Pistons in a wild and fun game on Wednesday, but who also aren’t a major threat in the East.) Thursday can set the tone for what could be a nice three game stretch before a meeting with the Pacers next week, though this could be the toughest of those games.
The Clippers (4-3) have had a pretty good start to the season. They’ve beat the Rockets twice (for whatever that’s worth in a topsy-turvy NBA season where Houston sits at last in the West), beat the Thunder and Wizards, and have played the Pelicans and Nuggets fairly close. They’re 11th in offensive rating and eighth in defensive rating on the year, and the one-two scoring punch of Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari is much better than people may have expected.
But the Sixers can put their best defender, Robert Covington, on one of those guys, and the Clippers have an uneven rotation at the guards, with Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander seeing a lot of work. If you can make those guys shoot, you put yourself in a good position to get the win. Bradley and Beverley have the two lowest field goal percentages on the team, and Gilgeous-Alexander is both a very promising rookie and also someone who hasn’t found a consistent role yet.
For the Sixers, the key to this game, aside from finding ways to limit the impact of Harris and Gallinari, will the same thing it’s been all season — finding consistent offensive production. Dario Saric should be getting near the end of his yearly slump soon and with Wilson Chandler still out, Philadelphia is in dire need of some long-range production from him. JJ Redick can go out and have a “take revenge on your old team” game, but he can’t do it all on his own as a shooter. Maybe that production comes from Shamet. Maybe Robert Covington just keeps being very good. Maybe, as someone mentioned in the Liberty Ballers Slack channel, Brett Brown should put out Embiid/Covington/Redick/Shamet/Simmons as a unit and see if that kick starts something offensively. (Do we like that idea? I like it. Covington can and should play the four more. Redick and Shamet might not be a great pairing defensively, but sometimes you have to create offense.)
This should be a fun and entertaining game. The Clippers are punching above their weight so far because Doc Rivers is way, way too good of a head coach to ever be bad no matter what he’s surrounded with. Let’s see if the Sixers can fix some of the things that dogged them against the Raptors and make a win happen.
- Philadelphia: Wilson Chandler (hamstring); Zhaire Smith (foot); Jerryd Bayless (knee)
- Los Angeles: Luc Mbah a Moute (knee)
- Time: 7:00pm EST
- Place: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
- TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
- Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic
- Twitter: @Liberty_Ballers