Through two scrimmages in the Orlando bubble, the Sixers starters have looked dominant. Although opponents have made big comebacks in the second half of each game against end-of-the-bench units, even resulting in a loss to Oklahoma City, Philadelphia fans have to be feeling good about the team’s readiness for the team’s eight seeding games to begin this weekend. Before then, though, the Sixers have one final tune-up this evening against the Dallas Mavericks.
Entering the seeding games, the Mavericks sit in seventh place in the West, 1.5 games back of Oklahoma City and Houston. I’m sure they would love to move up and avoid a likely first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers. If they do have success in the eight seeding games, it will be on the back of young star Luka Doncic, who fortunately for Dallas, hasn’t looked to have missed a step in his return to action. In Sunday’s 118-111 loss to Indiana, Doncic nearly had a triple-double with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists in just 24 minutes. He and former Sixer Boban Marjanovic also were the top bromance of early Bubble life, much to Tobi’s chagrin.
I feel like y’all doing this to just upset me now https://t.co/VE0o6WIuF3— Tobias Harris (@tobias31) July 13, 2020
The rest of the Dallas roster is not quite as rosy. Having not played in a back-to-back since January due to knee soreness, it would have been important for Kristaps Porzingis to get into a rhythm in these exhibition games. However, he was forced to sit out the team’s last scrimmage against the Pacers after failing to report for a coronavirus test, triggering a one-day quarantine. The Mavericks are already shorthanded in the front court with Dwight Powell out with a torn achilles, and Willie Cauley-Stein opting out of participating in the Bubble.
Of course, the Sixers have an eye on the front court themselves, after Joel Embiid sat out the last scrimmage against the Thunder with a sore calf. Encouragingly, Embiid did practice with the team yesterday, so even if he does sit out tonight as a precautionary measure, it seems like he will be ready to retake the floor when the seeding games begin. We are also still awaiting status for tonight for reserves Glenn Robinson III (hip pointer) and Raul Neto (back soreness), who both practiced yesterday as well.
Through two scrimmages, Ben Simmons has been the best player on the floor, and Sixers fans just want to see him get through tonight healthy, with maybe another 3-point attempt or two. Filling in for Embiid with the starters Sunday, Al Horford looked good, shooting 4-of-5 from 3 and grabbing nine rebounds in 23 minutes. The Sixers are only going as far in the playoffs as a healthy Embiid permits, but it was a nice glimpse of how the Horford signing was originally envisioned — Al is the best possible fallback option on a short-term basis.
The youngsters have looked ready in their return to action. After a quiet scrimmage opener, Shake Milton drained three 3s on Sunday against Oklahoma City. Matisse Thybulle has continued to terrorize the opposition defensively and racked up a number of stocks. You can argue that the top pieces don’t fit together quite as well as the group that lost at the buzzer in Game 7 to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors, but I think the Sixers clearly have a deeper rotation entering the playoffs this year.
48 more minutes of exhibition play before we get back to basketball that counts. Let’s get through it with all calves and lower backs intact.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Dallas Mavericks
Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, FL (The Bubble)
When: 8:30pm ET
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia