Time: 2:30 PM CST
The Oklahoma City Thunder (26-18) will look to get back on track today in the City of Brotherly Love, as they’ll take on the 76ers (30-16) at the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Philadelphia. The Thunder enter having lost two straight and five of their last six in a stretch of uninspired play. The Sixers are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference and are led by their three-headed monster of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Jimmy Butler.
Tip-off is at 2:30 PM CST and will be nationally-televised on ABC. The Thunder are 1.5-point road underdogs according to Odds Shark.
- Alex Abrines: Out — Personal
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Joel Embiid: Questionable — Back
- Markelle Fultz: Out — Nerve Disorder
- Justin Patton: Out — Foot
- Zhaire Smith: Out — Foot
76ers: Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler, Wilson Chandler, Joel Embiid
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What to Watch For
Rivalry Renewed. In last season’s lone trip to Philadelphia, the Thunder and Sixers created an instant classic, with OKC taking a 119-117 victory in triple-overtime. After dropping a 27-17-15 triple-double to lead his team to the win, Russell Westbrook shot a petty wave to Joel Embiid and told him to “go home” before exiting the floor — something that stuck with Philly’s big man until their second match-up later in the season. The Thunder won 122-112 in a game that featured a lot of trash talk and other assorted extracurricular activities — but Embiid did dunk on Westbrook and later posted the photo on Instagram to continue stirring the pot. Both contests last season were intense and a tremendous amount of fun to watch. Hopefully a game like this is exactly what the Thunder need to get back on track.
Thunder Defense. There’s no use beating a dead horse, so I’ll just stay this: The Thunder have given up 130.2 PPG over the last six games (1-5) and the Sixers will beat OKC, perhaps badly, if that doesn’t improve. You know Ben Simmons and Embiid will be attacking frequently in the PnR. Teams are also hitting 14 threes per game over the six game span, so please, for the love of all things holy, someone get a hand in JJ Redick’s face.
Point Guards That Can’t Shoot. The point guard match-up features two of the NBA’s most dynamic players in Westbrook and Simmons. Both guys are walking triple-doubles and do a lot of things very well — however, they also share an inability to hit from long range. Westbrook’s struggles are well-chronicled and he’s hitting on just 24.1 percent of three-point attempts this season. Simmons has yet to make a single three in his career and hasn’t even attempted one through 45 games of the 2018-19 campaign. The only real difference is that Simmons refuses to take those shots and Westbrook continues firing away. Things could get dicey if Russ is feeling overconfident after hitting 5-of-12 from deep in Thursday’s loss to the Lakers.
PG vs Jimmy. The Paul George/Jimmy Butler match-up is terrific, as both are elite two-way players that impact the game in a variety of ways. George is having a career-season and averaging 26.6 PPG. Butler is averaging 19 PPG and shooting 40 percent from deep since being traded to Philly. The player that can break through against the other’s defense will give his team a sizable advantage.
The Bigs. Last but not least, the Steven Adams/Embiid battle down low should be a lot of fun to watch. Adams is putting up career-high numbers in scoring (15.4 PPG) and rebounding (10.1 RPG) but will have his hands full with his All-NBA counterpart. There’s no real way to stop Embiid — he’s averaging 26.9 points, 13.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and two blocks — but he’s “Questionable” due to lower back stiffness. Should he miss the game or be limited in any way, Adams and the Thunder will have a much easier time.