If the Philadelphia 76ers wanna make it lucky number seven in a row, it won’t be as easy as getting through the Detroit Pistons to number six. Kawhi Leonard is coming to town, with all of his accompanying reminders of our past nightmares.
The Sixers are 18-12 overall, and now 13-5 at home. They’re in 5th place, one game behind the Nets, who don’t seem to mind all of their self-concocted controversy as much as folks figured they might. The Clippers, at 19-14 are also in 5th place out West. According to DraftKings, the Clips are +750 to win the title, the third best odds in the entire league. They’re now the favorites to emerge from the West (+380). The Sixers, on the other hand are just +1800, the 9th best odds to win it all, and have the fifth best odds to win the East at +1000, (behind Boston, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, and Cleveland, in order). Oddsmakers still see Philly as long shots to hoist the Larry O.B. at this point, despite their hot streak coming without Tyrese Maxey, who should offer them another level eventually.
While some of us have wondered if the Sixers might look to duck the luxury tax this year, Steve Ballmer’s crew, by contrast, seem content to pay a premium to bring home an ever elusive title. Most of the top teams these days are spending far more than their competition, a perhaps under-discussed element in today’s game.
This game isn’t short on storylines and additional elements to the mini-regular season rivalry.
One man no Sixers fan can ever forget is Kawhi, oh he of the infamous quadruple bouncing Game 7 game winner. That totally derailed things here, as you have to wonder if the former front office might have done more to retain Jimmy Butler had things bounced differently.
Still, Joel Embiid hasn’t seemed to mind playing against Kawhi’s new team, the Clippers, since Leonard fled Toronto. The big fella is averaged 34.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, and three assists in three games vs. L.A. dating back to the start of the 2020-2021 season. Philly is 2-1 over those three.
Oh and you remember when their head coach Tyronn Lue embarrassed himself last year, right?
First there was this, perhaps inadvertent gaffe, from Lue prior to a Sixers road win last March: “Embiid is number one in the league in free throws and James Harden is number three. You take away their free throws and neither guy would be top-10 in scoring.”
It’s kind of a truth that was likely used to diminish their accomplishments, but it’s true for every scoring leader. Lue, who was nearly hired by the Sixers before Doc Rivers became available, and Lue who Joel Embiid reportedly didn’t want to coach this team, could have said the exact same thing about LeBron James, Giannis, Trae Young, or Luka Doncic at that time last year... but he didn’t.
And Joel had some choice words for the dude Allen Iverson once baptized during that game, an easy 122-97 win.
Ty Lue: “Embiid is #1 in the league in free throws and James Harden is #3. You take away their free throws and neither guy would be top-10 in scoring.”— Josh Reynolds (@JoshReynolds24) March 26, 2022
Joel Embiid: 27 Pts on 7/8 FT
James Harden: 29 Pts on 11/11 FT
Embiid with a little something for Ty Lue after this bucket lol pic.twitter.com/ej6ZkAwKX6
And so, always loyal, Sixers Prez Daryl Morey defended his guys on Twitter:
And then Ty Lue revealed his true corporate-minded feelings on Morey’s infamous human rights tweet:
“They took it out of context…. It don’t bug me. In response to Daryl Morey, should he really be tweeting anything? Last time he tweeted, he cost the NBA a billion dollars so I don’t think he should be doing too much tweeting. Worry about his own team.”— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) March 28, 2022
Ty Lue on Daryl Morey pic.twitter.com/8lmIundiC1
And of course, if we wanted, we could dig into how Clips owner Steve Ballmer absolutely fleeced Sixers’ owner Josh Harris’ collaborative front office for an expiring Tobias Harris once upon a time, and then also wound up with the superior coach between the two, but let’s move on.
The Clips are a stellar 10-2 when Kawhi Leonard is active. They’re just 9-12 without the two time NBA Finals MVP. With Paul George and Kawhi on the floor, they’re 8-2. Leonard has averaged 19.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in his last 7 outings. He’s only missed two of his team’s last nine outings. Chances are the Sixers will ask P.J. Tucker to put the clamps on The Claw for much of this one.
Unless they surprise us and ask Georges Niang to check him instead.
Georges “Clamps” Niang https://t.co/taapnE3FmJ— Subscribe to the You Know Ball Patreon (@TrillBroDude) December 21, 2022
As well as Tobias Harris defended Pascal Siakam in last year’s playoffs, it was Tucker who drew the matchup vs. Spicy P in the team’s recent win over Toronto. After that game, here’s what Harden had to say about P.J.’s efforts.
“Defensively, he’s here for one reason and that’s to guard their best players. Siakam had it going in the third quarter, fourth quarter, overtime, Tuck did what he’s here to do.” So we’ll look for that key matchup tonight vs. Leonard.
And that likely means a combo of De’Anthony Melton, Tobias Harris, James Harden, Matisse Thybulle, and Danuel House Jr. will key on Paul George. More of a committee approach.
The Sixers have the 17th best offensive rating. The Clips rank near the bottom with the 29th most efficient offense. Defensively, the Sixers rank 2nd, and the Clips 4th. So our projected game total may not be too high with these defensive powerhouses squaring off.
If they get the win, we can look forward to a Christmas Day matinee where the national broadcast is forced to talk about one of the hottest teams in the league. (*The* hottest, potentially, if the dang Nets will ever lose again).
Potential revenge games for Tobias Harris, and Montrezl Harrell for Philly. On the other side, you’ve got Lord Robert Covington coming home. And of course, there was this gem, I’ll leave you with:
What a great game by Shake Milton today. 39 points on 14/20 shooting, including 7/9 from 3.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) March 2, 2020
He hit a bunch of 3s off the bounce, had some strong drives to the rim, and generally put together a really well-rounded scoring night pic.twitter.com/Jb4bRAkdny
When: December 23, 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philly
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic