Some say the best thing after a tough loss is to have another game right away in order to get the bitter taste of defeat out of your mouth as soon as possible. The Sixers are afforded such an opportunity tonight, as they travel to Oklahoma City to finish up their two-game back-to-back road sojourn this weekend.
Yesterday’s two-point loss in Memphis was certainly disappointing, but there were positive takeaways. Shake Milton continues to be able to score from anywhere on the court in what is shaping up to be his breakout season. Despite shooting below his career average from 3 at just 32.7 percent, where you would expect positive regression, Shake is shooting a career-best 50.4 percent from the field overall. His 16.9 point-per-game average is nearly double that of last year’s, in only an additional six minutes per game playing time, and his 3.7 assists-to-1.7 turnovers mark is very helpful as a secondary playmaker. Still making less than $2 million for this season plus two more, Milton’s contract is shaking out to be one of the most beneficial ones in the league from a team perspective.
Elsewhere on the roster, Tyrese Maxey’s floater remains a majestic sight, Isaiah Joe is now shooting 38.6 percent from 3 on the season, and Matisse Thybulle had at least one block and one steal for the fourth straight game. The precocious young Sixers on the roster are doing just fine.
Meanwhile, for the second straight year, the Oklahoma City Thunder are exceeding expectations despite leaning even heavier into the rebuild this past offseason. Sam Presti shipped out Chris Paul and turned the keys of the offense over in full to budding young star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. SGA has not disappointed, averaging 21.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 6.2 assists, while shooting a sparkling 50.8 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from 3. If the Clippers don’t end up winning a title with Paul George, they’re going to regret letting this guy get away.
The Thunder do still have a couple veterans sprinkled into the mix; George Hill has been steady and former Sixer Al Horford has had a few nice games, although he’s sitting out tonight due to a personal matter. However, Oklahoma City has not been shy about letting the youngsters get all the playing time and experience they can handle. Lu Dort has gone from lockdown defender that opponents were happy to ignore on offense, to shooting 43.1 percent from behind the arc and making 2.3 triples per game; he is currently second on the team in scoring. Bubble star Darius Bazley has struggled with his shot mightily of late, but he has three double-doubles on the season. Hamidou Diallo flashed his potential last week when he dropped 23 and 25 points in consecutive games.
The Sixers have the better and more experienced roster, but Joel Embiid is back in Philadelphia, and the Thunder have the rest and travel advantage having been home since last Sunday and having yesterday off. Oklahoma City is more than good enough to take care of the Sixers if they’re not in top form, meaning they’ll need to clean up last night’s turnovers and have Ben Simmons snap out of whatever funk he is in currently. A split on a road back-to-back would feel a lot better on the plane ride back to Philly.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
When: 7:00pm ET
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia; NBA TV
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Joel Embiid - out (knee); Mike Scott - out (knee); Seth Curry - out (COVID-19); Furkan Korkmaz - out (groin); Vincent Poirier - out (medical and safety protocols)
Oklahoma City: Al Horford - out (personal); Trevor Ariza - out (personal); Ty Jerome - out (ankle)