The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off a rough week. They dealt with several key players missing games (including Ben Simmons not playing at all) and concluded their toughest stretch of the season with an 0-4 week, finishing with losses to top opponents in Phoenix and Milwaukee. Philly has slipped to 2nd place in the Eastern Conference as a result, and now sit 1.5 games behind the Brooklyn Nets.
There’s reason to feel optimistic about the Sixers, though. They have a rather easy schedule to finish the season, and that starts on Monday night with a matchup against the 20-40 Oklahoma City Thunder, who are 13th place in the West after losing their last 13 games.
This contest is going to be a shorthanded affair for both teams. Mike Muscala (right ankle sprain), Lu Dort (right hip strain), and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (plantar fasciitis in his right foot) are all out. For the Sixers, Ben Simmons remains out with illness, while Joel Embiid (right shoulder soreness), Tobias Harris (right knee recovery), Furkan Korkmaz (right ankle sprain), and Paul Reed (health and safety protocols) are all listed as questionable.
The Sixers picked up an easy victory in their last game against OKC on April 10, winning 117-93 as Embiid led the way with 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting in only 27 minutes. There’s nothing the Thunder can do against him, so if he’s able to play on Monday, this could be a fairly straightforward game. If Embiid is absent and the Sixers are missing Harris and Simmons, most of the team’s creative duties will fall to Seth Curry, Shake Milton, George Hill and Tyrese Maxey (who has been playing well recently). It goes without saying that that’s far from ideal, but at least they’re facing one of the very worst teams in the NBA.
OKC has some fun young talent, which has made them more entertaining to watch than you might have thought this season. For instance, besides the currently sidelined SGA and Dort, Darius Bazley continues to show intriguing offensive promise with his shooting and ball handling. Theo Maledon has become more aggressive as his rookie season has progressed, and is showing off more of his scoring upside in the process. Aleksej Pokusevski is up and down and has his shaky moments and bad decisions, but he’s so unique with his shooting, ball handling, and passing flashes at 7’0” (not to mention his immense confidence). Whatever he’s doing, watching Poku play is an experience. Former Sixer Tony Bradley has continued to play well in Oklahoma City, too, while playing 18.8 minutes per game for his new team.
That said, the Thunder still rank just 23rd in defensive rating and dead last in offensive rating by a comfortable margin (103.6, well behind 29th-ranked Orlando at 105). Even if the Sixers are dealing with a couple of notable injuries and this game gets scrappy, it should be a winnable one.
Who: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Philadelphia 76ers
When: 7:00pm ET, April 26
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic