January 20, 2020. That was the date of the last road win by the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s now March, by the way. Remember to have those clocks spring forward this weekend for Daylight saving time. Nine consecutive road losses have left the Sixers in a precarious situation where they are tied for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, three games back of even hosting a first-round playoff series. To make matters worse, the team remains without the majority of its starting lineup with Ben Simmons, Joel “Do a 180” Embiid, and Josh Richardson still sidelined.
As much as Philadelphia sports fans are world-renowned for their hope and optimism, there’s no denying the Sixers have shown some sparks of life in the two recent losses in Los Angeles. The only issue was the Lakers and Clippers are both among the handful of true Finals contenders, and the ragtag bunch led by new superstar Shake Milton could only do so much when Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, or LeBron James decided to shift into another gear.
Well, you know who isn’t a true Finals contender? The Sacramento Kings. That franchise has had its fair share of KANGZZZ moments this season, perhaps none greater than making the decision to start bringing Buddy Hield off the bench. Because if you have a young rising star to whom you just committed $86 million guaranteed, you want to start that new era off by alienating him as much as possible.
To be entirely fair, though, the Kings have been playing good ball lately, winning their last three games and six of their last seven. At 27-34, they’re 3.5 games back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, one of the handful of teams hoping to catch the injury-riddled Memphis Grizzlies. So Sacramento has no shortage of motivation at this stage of the season.
If the Sixers are to win tonight, they’ll need crisp rotations on the perimeter, as Sacramento has been shooting lights out from behind the arc lately. Since February 1, four Kings have shot 43 percent or better from 3: Harrison Barnes (45.5 percent on 4.2 attempts), Buddy Hield (44.7 percent on 8.8 attempts), Cory Joseph (44.4 percent on 2.1 attempts), and the his-word-is-meaningless Nemanja Bjelica (43.3 percent on 5.2 attempts). Of course, a huge part of denying open looks is stopping the drive-and-kick game, and Sacramento has one of the fastest point guards in the league in De’Aaron Fox. Without Simmons and Richardson, more of the defensive burden to hold Fox in check will fall to Matisse Thybulle.
In better news, the Kings are shorthanded in the frontcourt, as Marvin Bagley has been injured for most of the season, and Richaun Holmes has been working his way back from a shoulder injury after having a breakout campaign. Harry Giles showing flashes lately is a nice enough story, but I’m not worried about Al Horford against him like I was Tuesday night when Anthony Davis left Al roasted, toasted, and burnt to a crisp.
Ultimately, if the Sixers show a similar effort to what we’ve seen lately, this should be a competitive game. Philadelphia needs Shake Milton and Mike Scott to keep up the hot shooting. Matisse needs to be in lockdown mode, and Tobias Harris needs to look like the best player on the court, something we saw in the last home game against the Knicks. Can the Sixers finally get off the schneid on the road? Find out at 10:00pm Eastern tonight.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Sacramento Kings
When: 10:00 pm ET
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Ben Simmons (out - back); Joel Embiid (out - shoulder); Josh Richardson (out - concussion)
Sacramento: De’Aaron Fox (probable - abdominal tightness); Cory Joseph (probable - heel); Marvin Bagley (out - foot); Richaun Holmes (out - shoulder)