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Sixers aim to continue perfect road trip against Clippers

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Los Angeles Clippers v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers weren’t at full strength in their latest game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Joel Embiid remains out with a bone bruise, Tony Bradley had just been dealt in the three-team trade for George Hill, Ben Simmons struggled as a scorer with 1-of-7 shooting and 7 turnovers, Dwight Howard was ejected early, and the Sixers slipped in the fourth quarter to let the Lakers draw closer. Even still, with 28 points from Danny Green to lead the way, they managed to win, 109-101, taking them to 3-0 on their current road trip.

The Sixers’ first post-trade deadline test will be against the LA Clippers on Saturday night. Embiid is the only player listed on the latest injury report. As for George Hill, there is no set timetable for his return to play — he’s been out since January after undergoing surgery on his right thumb. However, when speaking with media after the trade deadline, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey explained that Hill’s surgery will ensure that this injury isn’t a problem again in the future. Morey couldn’t give an exact timeframe for Hill’s return, but did say that it’s “not long” until he’s playing again. For more on Hill and how the Sixers approached the trade deadline, you can read here.

The Clippers, meanwhile, will be a bit shorthanded. Patrick Beverley (right knee soreness) and Serge Ibaka (lower back tightness) are both out, while Marcus Morris (right calf contusion) and Kawhi Leonard (right foot soreness) are listed as questionable. Terance Mann has taken on a larger role as this season has progressed, and started for the Clippers in their last game without Leonard.

At 32-13 for the season, the Sixers are still 1st place in the Eastern Conference. Danny Green has been playing at his best lately, the bench has been solid for the most part, and the team’s defense has been impressive in Embiid’s absence and now ranks 2nd in the league. So far, the Sixers couldn’t have been expected to play much better without their MVP candidate.

The Clippers are clearly having a good season, sitting at 30-16 and 3rd place in the West. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are putting up excellent numbers to lead the way, and the team ranks 2nd in offensive rating. After losing Montrezl Harrell in free agency, Serge Ibaka has been an important acquisition, giving L.A. a new dynamic on offense as a floor-spacing center. Nicolas Batum has a provided really good value, with decent size and defense and 43 percent three-point shooting (he’s been a reliable outlet for his teammates when spotting up in the corners).

The Clippers aren’t quite one of the NBA’s very top-tier contenders, though (as in, below teams like the Nets and Lakers). They’ve dropped to 11th in defense this season, and they made perhaps the most puzzling trade before the deadline. They sent Lou Williams and two second-round picks to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Rajon Rondo. While Playoff Rondo may be intriguing to an extent as another playmaker, this is a downgrade for the Clippers. Especially when you factor in them trading away two picks. Rondo is having a rough season, and he doesn’t address the Clippers’ weaknesses in terms of needing a new ball-handler who can offer more driving ability and put pressure on the rim. Luke Kennard’s limited role and impact after L.A. signed him to a four-year, $64 million extension has mostly been disappointing, too.

With Ibaka out on Saturday, this game will shift to a more interior-based matchup between centers, which favors Dwight Howard as he won’t be tested to shift outside to guard Ibaka’s pick-and-pop game. Primarily facing up against Ivica Zubac make things easier for the Sixers’ defense. How much success Ben Simmons can have attacking the rim against the Clippers’ lengthy forwards and Paul George in particular (and Leonard, if he plays), and how the Sixers defend L.A.’s star wing(s) with Simmons, Green and Matisse Thybulle will be key to watch.

Game Details

Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. LA Clippers
When: 10:00 pm ET, Saturday, March 27
Where: STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBA TV
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Follow: @Liberty_Ballers