12-26. That was the Sixers’ record away from home last regular season. A team that was seemingly unbeatable in front of the discerning masses of the Wells Fargo Center dissolved into a discombobulated mass of goo after the team’s overnight bags had been packed. With a new coaching staff and a reconstructed roster, tonight is the 1-0 Sixers’ first test to determine whether their road difficulties are behind them.
Philadelphia couldn’t have asked for a much better runway to ease into their road campaign than tonight’s opponent, the New York Knicks, one of the few teams in the league that seem like a surefire bet for the lottery. However, although the Knicks lost their opener to Indiana, 121-107, they have to be encouraged by what they saw from 2019 first-round pick RJ Barrett. The former third overall pick went off for 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting, eight rebounds, and five assists Wednesday night. The Knicks are on their umpteenth year of their rebuild, and the best possible outcome for this season would be Barrett fulfilling his blue-chip potential.
Meanwhile, New York may be without their latest first-round pick, Obi Toppin, who is doubtful with a calf injury suffered against Indiana. However, Philadelphia will see a couple familiar faces on the opposing sideline. Former Sixers Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel both signed one-year deals with New York this past offseason. Burks shined with 22 points in 32 minutes in his Knicks debut, while Nerlens tallied two points and three rebounds backing up Mitchell Robinson.
Coming off an uneven performance in their opening win over Washington, the Sixers will look to avoid things like...going the first six minutes of the third quarter without scoring. Seriously, though, Joel Embiid should fare quite well against Robinson, who racks up significant block totals, but averaged 4.9 fouls per 36 minutes last season. One of the most foul-prone defenders against one of the best players in the league at drawing fouls is a recipe for success from the Sixers’ perspective. Any Embiid vs. Noel minutes should make for great fun between those good friends.
Philadelphia will also hope Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey build upon their success in their first outings within their new roles, Shake as the newly-minted sixth man and Maxey as a certified rotation member in his rookie year. The main area for improvement would be $36 million man Tobias Harris, who shot just 3-of-13 from the field and generally looked out-of-sorts against the Wizards. If Tobias’ revival under former coach Doc Rivers’ tutelage was to take place, a game against the Knicks would be a logical starting point.
Ultimately, who needs a nationally-televised game on Christmas Day when you could play a day later on NBA TV against the Knicks?
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. New York Knicks
When: 7:30pm ET
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia; NBA TV
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Injuries: New York: Obi Toppin - calf (doubtful); Immanuel Quickley - hip pointer (doubtful); Omari Spellman - knee (out); Austin Rivers - groin (out)
Philadelphia: None (What is this strange new world?)