After watching a thrilling Super Bowl which sadly ended in a heartbreaking call and loss for the Eagles, it's time to turn our attention once more to the Sixers.
After locking in late defensively and fighting back to win the fourth quarter 25-16, the Sixers just managed to beat the new-look Nets 101-98 on Saturday. And it was the Sixers' stars that once again carried them most of the way to that scrappy win, with Joel Embiid racking up 37 points on 12-of-18 shooting to go along with 29 points from James Harden.
Frankly, the Sixers have looked like they could use the All-Star break recently. And fortunately they have some helpful scheduling on their side for Monday night, as they're at home to take on the 13-43 Houston Rockets.
Embiid is listed as questionable with left foot soreness, while Shake Milton (left eye soreness) is probable. For the Rockets, Kevin Porter Jr. remains out due to a left foot contusion.
Overall, the Sixers haven't been in their best form lately. They've had too many spells of poor effort and lacklustre defense, Embiid's decision making and turnover control hasn't been as sharp over his last handful of games, Tobias Harris’s production and decision making has slowed down over the last couple of weeks, and Tyrese Maxey has had some ups and downs while adjusting to his new role off the bench. Even De’Anthony Melton, who’s been a fantastic addition overall this season, has scored just five total points over his last two games after going 0-of-3 for zero points against the Nets.
Oh, and backup center issues (except when Paul Reed gets a chance to turn in a solid stretch) have been consistent as always with Montrezl Harrell on the floor and no new reinforcement from the trade deadline. In general, the team's supporting cast just hasn't given Embiid and Harden much help lately.
So, in theory, this next game against the Rockets should be a good chance to get cooking offensively and take care of business for an easier win.
It’s been a tough season for the Rockets. They’re currently riding a five-game losing streak and rank in the bottom three in both offensive and defensive rating, leaving them dead last in the Western Conference.
They look a little different after the trade deadline, too. Eric Gordon, who's been a key player for the franchise over the last seven seasons and has been a popular name in trade rumors many times, was finally dealt. He landed with the Clippers in a three-team trade that saw the Rockets receive a pick swap, John Wall and former Sixer sharpshooter Danny Green. (After agreeing to a buyout, Green is now signing with the Cavaliers.) The Rockets also traded Bruno Fernando and Garrison Matthews to the Hawks for two second-round picks (because those were flying around all over the place on deadline day), Frank Kaminsky and Justin Holiday.
Jalen Green’s efficiency has been inconsistent this season, but he has turned in some huge scoring performances as of late — he’s scored 40-plus points three times in his last nine games (albeit with some cold, low scoring games surrounding those big nights). If the Sixers fall asleep against the likes of Green and the Rockets’ other young talents like Alperen Sengun (who’s continuing a terrific sophomore season with averages of 15.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game), this game could get more competitive than it should be. Hopefully for the sake of the Sixers' defense and general frontcourt play, Reed will get more minutes again on Monday and show what he can do when guarding the crafty Sengun. One thing Reed will need to be careful of, especially if Embiid is sidelined and more minutes come his way, is being wary not to bite on too many of Sengun's nifty fakes and footwork.
If the Sixers bring any kind of reasonable defensive effort, Harden’s fine form continues, and Embiid (if available) exploits frontcourt defenders that don’t nearly have the size or strength to handle him, then the Sixers shouldn’t have much trouble racking up points against Houston’s 28th-ranked defense.
Also, this will be our second chance to get a look at Jalen McDaniels as a Sixer. He got off to a solid start in his debut, finishing with five points, four rebounds and an assist in 15 minutes while using his length to effectively contest some perimeter jumpers and throw down a strong dunk off a lob from Maxey.
Having another guy on the roster that can do this > pic.twitter.com/aBa79KMmdf— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) February 11, 2023
McDaniels clearly isn’t the same level of disruptive defender that Matisse Thybulle is, but he offers more offensively to the point where he could be a more reliable two-way presence, which is what the team needs as they prepare for the playoffs. Watching how effectively he uses his size and athleticism defensively, cuts to the basket, finishes, and gets by as a shooter will be interesting to monitor in the coming weeks.
This should be an opportunity for the Sixers to get a fairly easy win, before their final game before the All-Star break against the dangerous Cavs on Wednesday. We’ll soon see if the Sixers bring the appropriate energy to actually make it happen.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Houston Rockets
When: 7:00 pm EST, Monday, Feb. 13
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic