It has already been a week to remember in Sixers land. Joel Embiid was even more spectacular than usual in Monday’s win over San Antonio, utterly dominating to the tune of a franchise-record 70 points. A generation of Philadelphia fans may never again see the likes of what we witnessed against the Spurs.
Then, while we were all soaking in the moment during the next couple days, we were treated to a comedy fest. The Milwaukee Bucks fired head coach Adrian Griffin, and within 24 hours, hired Doc Rivers as his replacement, who had been working as a consultant with the team. Sixers fans who were throwing parties when Doc was fired as Philadelphia’s head man last summer are now envisioning him steering the Bucks into a second-round flameout. The mere possibility is just too delicious to think about.
In the midst of it all, we’re back to actual basketball tonight with the Sixers heading to Indianapolis. The Pacers have been in the news lately as well, following a big trade that saw them ship three first-round picks and Bruce Brown to Toronto for two-time All-Star Pascal Siakam. There is certainly reason to be optimistic about the acquisition from Indiana’s perspective. The on-court fit seems smooth, with Tyrese Haliburton’s playmaking and gravity helping to alleviate the shaky perimeter shot of Siakam, while Pascal’s versatile defensive ability should help a Pacers squad starved for any defense.
The move hasn’t paid immediate dividends, though. Since Siakam’s Pacers debut, Indiana has lost three straight games. However, only one of those losses came with Haliburton available. The star guard returned from a hamstring injury for last week’s loss to Portland, which was Siakam’s debut, but appeared to have returned too early, missing the next two games. He will sit again tonight, with the plan currently to be re-evaluated on Saturday. With these recent defeats, the Pacers have slid down to 7th place in the Eastern Conference, but maybe Play-In Tournament positioning is perfect for them. They clearly thrive in differently formatted basketball after advancing to the inaugural In-Season Tournament Final earlier this season.
The Sixers will be missing some key members of the squad tonight, with De’Anthony Melton, Robert Covington, and Mo Bamba all out, and Tobias Harris questionable. Regardless, with Haliburton sidelined, this is absolutely a game the Sixers should win. The other Tyrese is the clear engine of the Pacers’ go-go-go offensive attack. We’ve seen when Embiid misses games this season what happens when an NBA team builds a roster around one player’s strengths, but then that player isn’t there.
Luckily for the Sixers, they won’t have that problem tonight, with Joel ready to go and fresh off the most commanding performance of his stellar career. Embiid scored 37 and 39 points in the two meetings between these clubs back in November. With his history of stomping all over Myles Turner in their matchups, the sky’s the limit. 71, anybody?