Things around the Philadelphia basketball franchise are currently as bleak as they have been in years. The Sixers are fresh off their winless four-game road trip, and having home-court advantage in merely the first round of the NBA playoffs is beginning to look more and more like a pipe dream. Reasonable people, and not just the trolls and constant energy vampires that populate any rabid sports town, are coming to the conclusion that the organization needs a total overhaul, from the bench up to the front office. The Sixers are a macabre hybrid of the This Is Fine and Not Great, Bob memes.
On the positive side, the Sixers return home tonight, a place where caterpillars turn to butterflies and everything comes up smelling like roses. The last time we checked in on the Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia was, wait for it, in the midst of a six-wins-in-seven-games stretch that included a romp over the best-in-the-West Los Angeles Lakers. The Sixers are a league-best 22-2 at home, all of which means a loss tonight would only cement the feeling that this season is spiraling out of control.
Tonight will not be an easy win, either. The young Memphis Grizzlies are playing terrific basketball at the moment, sitting at 26-25, 2.5 games up on Portland for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Unlike the Sixers, Memphis had last night off, and their locker room appears to be fully galvanized, seemingly a foreign concept for Philadelphia. The Ja Morant-Dillon Brooks backcourt took umbrage with former teammate Andre Iguodala thinking he was above playing for the team, and Ja was even willing to get into a social media spat with Steph Curry over the issue. Whatever side you come down on with the whole Iguodala situation, you have to appreciate the budding us-against-the-world mentality the Grizzlies youngsters are adopting.
The Grizz can ball, too. Ja Morant looks like the surefire Rookie of the Year, averaging an efficient 17.4 points and 7.0 assists, with highlight-reel passes and a no-fear mentality to dunk on anyone. He has inspired a parody song from The Ringer, which is now the final hype stage for a young athlete. Meanwhile, the young frontcourt trio of Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas (young-ish at 27), and Brandon Clarke all bring plenty to the table, while (gasp) actually complementing each other’s games. Imagine such a frontcourt.
Philadelphia should get a boost tonight from their two trade deadline acquisitions, Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III. Our Tom West did an outstanding breakdown of the ways that pair can help the Sixers. Whether that will be enough to take down a feisty Memphis team when the team has a host of problems — to name a few: three guys trying to post up on a single offensive possession, Al Horford moving around like I feel when I haven’t been to yoga in a few weeks, Joel Embiid’s hand obviously being messed up and him having no business playing — remains to be seen. But if there’s been one consistency this season, it’s that home-court advantage conquers all. Hopefully, it serves as a much-needed tonic tonight.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Memphis Grizzlies
When: 7:00 pm ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Josh Richardson (out - hamstring)
Memphis: Justise Winslow (out - back); Grayson Allen (out - hip); Jonas Valanciunas (questionable - ankle)