After a bit of a speed bump earlier in the week, the Philadelphia 76ers got back on track with a road victory in Atlanta Friday night to bring their record to 9-3 on the season. In other good news, Nic Batum looks to be making his return to action, as he was not listed on yesterday’s injury report. The Sixers certainly missed that extra playmaking, floor spacing, and defensive communication which the veteran forward provides. Joel Embiid also lost the questionable designation he’s been saddled with lately, so hopefully that hip is feeling better.
When the Sixers take the floor this afternoon, they’ll be facing Brooklyn in a game that counts for the first time since the first round of the 2023 playoffs. Philadelphia swept that series, with the Nets resorting to a “if you can’t beat ‘em, beat ‘em up” philosophy.
This year, Brooklyn is off to a 6-6 start, most recently losing in Miami on Thursday night. While the Nets have had the extra day off compared to Philadelphia, hopefully the rigors of battling Heat Culture tired Brooklyn out a bit. Whereas the Sixers will only be missing Kelly Oubre Jr., the Nets will be without a couple key pieces in Ben Simmons and Cam Thomas, with Dennis Smith, Jr. also questionable.
Brooklyn’s Ben Simmons (lower back nerve impingement) and Cam Thomas (left ankle sprain) are out.— Noah Levick (@NoahLevick) November 18, 2023
Dennis Smith Jr. is questionable with lower back soreness.
Thomas is actually leading the Nets in scoring, at 26.9 points per game across eight contests. Team USA member and two-time National Champion Mikal Bridges is off to a strong start, averaging 20.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. Five other Nets are averaging double figures, including new arrival Lonnie Walker IV, who signed a one-year, minimum deal with Brooklyn this offseason and is averaging 15.7 points per game on a career-best 62.9 true shooting percentage.
For the Sixers, don’t look now, but Joel Embiid is leading the league in scoring again at 31.9 points per game. While Nic Claxton is an excellent defender, he’s undersized to be battling Embiid, so I like the Sixers big man’s chances. Tyrese Maxey has understandably come back down to earth some after his 50-point explosion, but averages of 22.0 points and 5.7 assists across the last three games are still pretty darn good for a “downspell”. Maxey is 10th in the league in scoring overall at 26.9 points per game.
While today’s game won’t have the built-in competitiveness of an In-Season Tournament contest, it should be a chippy battle between division rivals. We’ll see if these healthy-ish Sixers can get another long winning streak going.