It’s been a tough road trip for the shorthanded Sixers. They haven’t had Joel Embiid for the last eight games after he tested positive for COVID-19, and a host of absences from other starters and backups like Matisse Thybulle has only made matters worse. But despite missing so many key players, the Sixers have gone 2-3 on their road trip so far with resilient wins against the Nuggets and Kings.
Apart from a 120-85 loss to Utah, the Sixers have remained competitive throughout this trip. While their recent lack of firepower and string of losses may be frustrating for fans, there are still positives to take away from the improved play of the team’s role players and strengthened bench this season.
On Wednesday, though, the Sixers will have their biggest challenge of the road trip yet, taking on the 15-2 Warriors.
Seth Curry (low back stiffness), Tobias Harris (left hip soreness) and Danny Green (left hamstring tightness) have all been upgraded to questionable. Meanwhile, Ben Simmons (personal reasons) and Embiid (health and safety protocols) remain out.
For the Warriors, Andre Iguodala (right knee soreness), James Wiseman (right knee recovery) and Klay Thompson (right achilles recovery) are all out.
Even though Embiid is still listed as out for now, we did receive an encouraging update from Doc Rivers this week that Embiid is working out more now and progressing well.
Doc Rivers on Joel Embiid, said that he's working out at the practice facility in Camden: "He passed one of the tests, I think he has another big one today. Then after that, we have to decide what we want to do. But the fact that he's out working again is huge."— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) November 22, 2021
The Warriors have been rolling this season. They’re at the top of the Western Conference with the NBA’s second-ranked offense, best defense, and best net rating by a mile at +12.9 (the Jazz are second at +9.2). Sure, they haven’t had the most gruelling schedule yet, but they’ve looked fantastic to start the season.
Steph Curry has been one of the top few players in the league, averaging 28.4 points with an absurd 63.8 true shooting percentage. The arrival of more players who fit the Warriors’ fast, quick-thinking, movement-heavy offense has helped, too. Otto Porter gives them more shooting, Nemanja Bjelica is a great fit as a playmaking, shooting small-ball big, and Iguodala knows his old teammates as well as anyone.
Andrew Wiggins also deserves credit for how well he’s playing, providing solid defense and 19.1 points per game with the best true shooting percentage (59.4) of his career. Along with Jordan Poole’s complementary ball-handling, high-volume shooting and scoring off the bounce, the two have helped Steph carry the team’s scoring load. Kevon Looney has been rock solid as usual, while Gary Payton II has provided an additional jolt of quality guard defense and has been finding easy opportunities for cuts to the basket in Golden State’s fluid offense.
Put all these pieces together, with Curry leading the offense and Draymond Green quarterbacking the team at the other end of the floor with brilliant defense, and the Warriors are clicking.
Tyrese Maxey has stepped up in a major way to help lead Philly’s offense recently, averaging 24.3 points and 4.5 assists (with 50.3/43.2/91.4 shooting splits) over the last eight games while Embiid had been out. For the season, Maxey’s now averaging 18.7 points per game with a 60 true shooting percentage. He continues to wisely pick his spots to score, finish incredibly well at the rim (he’s shooting 73.8 percent within three feet), and grow in confidence with his pull-up jumper, all while significantly increasing his efficiency. The leap he’s making as a 21-year-old in a larger role has been extremely impressive.
Watching Maxey go against a top defense and likely spend plenty of time guarding Steph Curry will be a lot of fun, and a serious challenge for the sophomore guard. It’s the best matchup to focus on in this contest.
Fortunately for the Sixers’ defense, Thybulle’s return will be a real help in this matchup. There’s nothing anyone on the planet can do to stop Curry when he’s on a run, but at least Thybulle has better tools than pretty much anyone to throw at Curry with his speed, length, crazy shot contests, and ability to fly around screens.
As for frontcourt matchups, can Andre Drummond pick up where he left off against the Kings? After a mostly poor stretch of play over the previous week or two, the Sixers’ backup center was excellent on Monday night, providing sound pick-and-roll coverage and rim protection while grabbing 23 rebounds, including seven offensive boards — four of which came in the fourth quarter when Philly desperately needed a lift to come back and secure the win. If Drummond can look spry against the Warriors high ball screens, keep up with their cuts to the basket, clean up on the boards and provide second-chance opportunities against smaller bigs like Draymond and Bjelica, it will make a big difference.
It’s going to be seriously difficult for the Sixers to find a win on Wednesday if they’re still missing Embiid (and potentially any of their questionable starters). But you can expect this group to fight at the very least, and they’ll get to enjoy a rare two days off afterwards before starting a two-game home stint.
When: 10:00 pm ET, November 24, 2021
Where: Chase Center, San Francisco, CA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus, ESPN
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic