Winners of three straight games, the Philadelphia 76ers are beginning to reap the benefits of what was widely perceived as an easy end to the regular season schedule. Thanks to the team’s recent beatdowns over the Thunder and Hawks (not once, but twice!), and with some help from Portland Friday night, the Sixers currently sit just a half-game back of Brooklyn for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Depending on what happens this afternoon in a crucial game between Brooklyn and Milwaukee (the Bucks are currently 3.5-point favorites), Philadelphia could be playing for sole possession of first place this evening.
However, tonight’s game likely won’t be the cakewalk that the previous three were. San Antonio sits at 31-31 on the season, currently holding 10th place in the Western Conference, with just a half-game separating teams 8-10 jockeying for playoff play-in positioning. Yet, although, the Spurs have plenty to play for, they have lost two straight, including an overtime loss to Boston Friday night where they blew a 32-point lead. Not a typo. They suffered an even bigger loss earlier in the week when guard Derrick White sprained his ankle; he has already been ruled out for the remainder of the regular season.
So the Sixers would seem to be catching San Antonio at a good time, and given the fact that the Sixers won 134-99 back in Philadelphia last month, that’s not any reason to overly fret about tonight’s contest. Philadelphia is fully healthy and both the starting and bench units have clicked since Ben Simmons’s return to action and George Hill’s arrival, respectively. Still, the Spurs are a Gregg Popovich-coached team that doesn’t foul (8th-lowest opponent’s free throw attempted rate) and doesn’t turn the ball over (league-best 11.4 turnover percentage). Tonight’s game won’t be handed to the Sixers. But they are definitively the more talented team. So go out and take it, and maybe we can go back to using the phrase “the first-place Philadelphia 76ers” by this time tomorrow.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. San Antonio
When: 8:00 pm ET
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
San Antonio: Derrick White - out (ankle); Trey Lyles - out (ankle)