I hope the heartbreak of Wednesday is starting to subside. The Sixers blew a late lead to the Bulls in a game capped off by a poor defensive possession that put Chicago ahead, and then squandered two chances to win the game with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. It was bad. There are lots of people to blame. Etc. Etc. Etc. Time to head to Houston!
While there were hopes that Joel Embiid could return on Friday, he’s still dealing with the tendinitis in his left knee and will miss his eighth game in a row. Philadelphia is 4-3 on this current stretch without Embiid and face an uphill battle against the Rockets to avoid falling to 4-4 since returning from the All-Star break.
The Rockets, meanwhile, find themselves on a hot streak. They’ve won their last six, including games against Golden State, Toronto, and Boston, and they’re back at full strength for the first time in what seems like forever with their big three of James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela. While the Rockets have lost a little on the defensive end — last year they allowed the eighth-fewest points per game and this year they allow the 13th-fewest — they remain a strong offensive team with the league’s second-best offensive rating. James Harden is playing like an MVP again and there’s a better than 50-50 chance that his performance on Friday will bring back some terrible memories of Zach LaVine’s performance on Wednesday.
This is Philly’s third game in four nights, and with this one coming against a team as good as Houston, and with Embiid out, it feels a little like a schedule loss. That might have been fine if Wednesday hadn’t happened, but in the race to get the three or four seed, Philly can’t really afford another loss. With the Pacers just deciding that the loss of Victor Oladipo doesn’t matter, this Embiid-less stretch threatens to put the Sixers in a tough situation come playoff time — a potential series against the Celtics.
The Rockets are the favorites on Friday. While Philadelphia won when the teams faced each other in January, I can’t really see anything from that game being indicative of anything in this one, considering the following players didn’t appear in the first meeting for either injury reasons or not being on the team yet reasons: Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Houston Rockets
When: 8:00 pm EST
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Watch: ESPN, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 the Fanatic