The Sixers completely dominated in their last outing with a 138-94 win against the Lakers. Led by Joel Embiid’s 30-11-11 triple-double, Tyrese Maxey’s 31 points and eight dimes, and 22 made threes as a team, the Sixers built well off Saturday’s win against a strong Thunder team.
On Wednesday, the Sixers will be back on the road against the Pelicans.
Statistically, New Orleans have been rather average across the board this season. They’re 9-9, ninth place in the Western Conference, and rank 16th in offensive rating and a slightly better 11th in defensive rating.
Nevertheless, they still have a plenty of talent to worry about.
The Sixers (primarily De’Anthony Melton) may also have to be ready to guard C.J. McCollum, too. McCollum suffered a scary injury when his right lung collapsed and he’s been out since Nov. 4. He now plans to take part in Wednesday’s shootaround and could return to play.
Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (lung) plans to take part in shoot around Wednesday and could return to action as early as that night against the visiting Sixers if all goes well, a source told @andscape. McCollum last played on November 4th when he suffered a right collapsed lung.— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) November 28, 2023
Then there’s Zion Williamson. One of the most unique players in the league, and one of the toughest to match up against defensively with his unique combination of speed and strength. He’ll be the biggest test for the Sixers’ 10th-ranked defense on Wednesday.
With the way the team has been connected defensively this season and their improvement on the wing with guys like Nicolas Batum and Robert Covington, the Sixers are better suited to at least throw more length at Zion and dig in with help at the nail on his drives. And, of course, they have a dominant Embiid to man the paint and protect the rim as Zion barrels into the lane. He’s always a difficult player to handle, though. Both with his explosive face-up drives and how the Pelicans cleverly get him the ball on the move with off-ball cuts and hand-offs. It’ll be interesting to see how Nick Nurse schemes with this new-look Sixers team to slow him down.
Whenever Tobias Harris is on Williamson, Nicolas Batum (who’s continuing to impress at both ends of the floor) can play a key role in guarding Brandon Ingram. Ingram has averaged an efficient 27.5 points over his last six games and is at 24.6 for the season on a 56.5 true shooting percentage. His three-pointer hasn’t been falling much so far (29.4 percent), but he’s still a threat off the bounce all around the floor.
Keep an eye on rookie Jordan Hawkins, too. The 6-foot-5 guard has been playing a significant role straight away for the Pelicans, averaging 28.9 minutes and 13.4 points per game as the team’s fourth-leading scorer. He’s a terrific shooter with a quick release (even against tight closeouts) and has been letting triples fly off screens and off movement, burying 37 percent of his 7.5 three-point attempts per game.
Williamson, Ingram and (if he plays) McCollum are by far the top threats to worry about, but the Sixers need to keep track of Hawkins relocating around the arc as well. The rookie already has three games with at least 25 points this season, including two in the last two weeks.
Embiid has cruised to some dominant performances against New Orleans and Jonas Valanciunas in the past. In two games against the Pels last year, Embiid dropped 42 points on 15-of-24 shooting, and 37 points on 14-of-22 shooting. As the big fella comes off an impressive triple-double against the Lakers, continuing to showcase both his scoring prowess and yet again improved passing, he looks set to keep rolling.
Defending Maxey, not only one of the league’s fastest players and shiftiest drivers but one of the best shooters as well, is proving a tall order for all opponents right now. The Pelicans have some top defensive talent to utilize, though. The rangy, agile, 6-foot-8 Herb Jones is incredibly versatile and effective against both guards and forwards. It’ll be interesting to see how much time Jones spends on Maxey, and how Maxey navigates screens with his pull-up game and drives to try to get the best of Jones and the Pelicans.
The Sixers and their stars are in fine form after Monday’s win, but this Pelicans team should give them a solid challenge. Let’s see if Philly can make it three wins in a row.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. New Orleans Pelicans
When: 8:00 pm EST
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic