Things are looking up again in Philadelphia. The Sixers are three games out of first place in the Eastern Conference, winners of three straight and 11 out of their last 13 contests. Tyrese Maxey is back on the court and the team is healthy with the glaring exception of Joel Embiid, who will miss his second straight game tonight with left foot soreness. However, all the buzz is that this his sitting out is merely precautionary so don’t fret, Sixers fans. Take a deep breath. Everything will be A-OK. (I reserve the right to panic later if it turns out we got bamboozled by another vague injury situation.)
Even without Joel, though, the Sixers secured the W against the Indiana Pacers two nights ago, albeit needing overtime after blowing a double-digit fourth-quarter lead. James Harden picked up the scoring load with 26 points. Tyrese Maxey was swiping and slamming in the final minute of regulation to help save the game. De’Anthony Melton grabbed the Sharpshooter belt from Tobias Harris and draped it across his chest like a WWE champion. And the bench played tremendously well, led by
not Paul Reed Montrezl Harrell, who dropped a season-high 19 points with four blocks. Can Trez prove the haters, the liars, and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world wrong with a dominant encore performance?
It’s extra sad that Joel won’t be lacing them up given tonight’s opponent, as the big man has a 12-0 career record against Chicago. The Bulls finally broke Brooklyn’s 12-game winning streak with a 121-112 win Wednesday night in Chicago. After a dreadful start to the season, the Bulls have righted the ship a bit, winning six of their last nine games to move up to 17-21 on the season.
Still, Chicago was built to be a surefire playoff team, not a squad looking to crawl its way into playing on the road in the Play-In Tournament. They’ve struggled on both sides of the ball this season, sitting 18th in offensive rating and 20th in defensive rating, as of this writing. Before the recent winning stretch, there was reporting of Zach LaVine and the Bulls organization not seeing eye to eye. The “blow it up” whispers are getting stronger in the Windy City. What’s the ceiling for a LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic core anyway?
But that’s a question for another day for Chicago. Tonight, the Sixers have to deal with a team playing pretty good ball of late, while missing their own top player. Philadelphia secured a 114-109 win over the Bulls earlier this season in Chicago, but that was with Embiid leading the way with a game-high 25 points. They’ll rely on De’Anthony Melton to help slow down LaVine. With DeRozan forming an intimidating wing duo, I’d imagine we’ll see plenty of Matisse Thybulle, who has been playing well lately for Philadelphia. Like Wednesday night, though, the best defense might be a good offense for the Sixers.
Can Philadelphia get it done without Joel and make it four straight wins? Follow along with us tonight and find out.