Preview 61 of 82: 76ers @ Thunder
Time: 7:00 PM CST
The Thunder (38-22) return to action tonight in Oklahoma City, taking on the Philadelphia 76ers (39-22) at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Though the teams share a bitter cross-conference rivalry, the injury bug has robbed this particular matchup of some of its allure. The Sixers will be without All-NBA big man Joel Embiid due to a lingering knee issue. On the other side, the Thunder will take the floor without MVP candidate and leading scorer, Paul George, who was scratched from the lineup earlier today after experiencing shoulder soreness.
Tip-off is at 7:00 PM CST and will be televised nationally on TNT. The Thunder are 4-point home favorites according to Odds Shark.
- Paul George: Out — Shoulder Soreness
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Joel Embiid: Out — Knee
- Boban Marjonovic: Out — Knee
- Furkan Kormaz: Out — Knee
- Shake Milton: Out — Hand
- Zhaire Smith: Out — Foot
Sixers: Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, Justin Patton
|Team||EFG||FTA%||TO%||OREB%||OP EFG||OP FTA||OP TO||OP OREB|
What to Watch For
No PG13. George is set to miss his second game of the season tonight vs Philly, with his only other absence being a 118-102 victory over the Phoenix Suns on December 28. Billy Donovan went with Westbrook-Schroder-Ferguson-Grant-Adams in the starting lineup in that game, so it’s possible we see it again tonight. In any case, George has been the Thunder’s best player this season, and that 28.6 PPG + outstanding defense will be impossible to replace.
As far as the shoulder injury is concerned, here’s more via ESPN’s Royce Young:
George injured the shoulder at some point during Tuesday’s game against the Denver Nuggets. He was seen icing his shoulder after the game, and did not participate in the Thunder’s shootaround Thursday morning. There’s no timetable on George’s return to play, but he’ll take it day by day and see how he feels. The Thunder’s next game is in San Antonio on Saturday. Royce Young, ESPN
Now I Do What I Want. In the only other game George missed this season, Russell Westbrook dropped a cool 40-12-8 on the Suns, shooting 17-of-29 in the process. Though the Sixers aren’t the Suns, OKC’s game plan probably won’t look much different. Westbrook will need to provide the scoring if the Thunder want to avoid their third straight loss, and he’s averaging 35.3 points on 52 percent shooting — 43.3 percent from long range — in the three games since the All-Star break. Here’s to hoping that consistency continues. The Thunder will likely need it to win tonight.
Philly Bigs. The Sixers will be without Joel Embiid — their leading scorer and best player. In addition, Boban Marjanovic (Embiid’s top backup) will be inactive as well. As a result, Westbrook should find the rim more accessible without Philly’s monsters on the floor, and it also bodes well for Steven Adams — who scored 15 points in the first half on Tuesday vs Denver, but took just one attempt after halftime. The Thunder should feed Big Kiwi early, often, and throughout.
Stopping the Sixers. Even without Embiid, this Philly roster is loaded with talented play makers. Ben Simmons (17 PPG, 9 RPG, 7.8 APG) and JJ Redick (18.2 PPG, 39% 3P) create a formidable backcourt that’s difficult to match up with. When you factor in Tobias Harris (20.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 37.2% 3P) and Jimmy Butler (18.5 PPG, 1.9 SPG, 34.8% 3P) at the two forward positions, it’s easy to see how the Sixers could present an issue for a sliding Thunder defense. Neither team is particularly deep, but because of George’s absence, the Sixers have an edge in available firepower.
Nick Gallo’s Game Day Report: