76ers look to win fifth straight against Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies tonight in South Philly
The Philadelphia 76ers are back in action tonight after a second-half surge against the Kings on Saturday by Joel Embiid and company led the team to their fourth straight win, remaining a perfect 3-0 on their current home stand. Philly will host its toughest opponent of the last month tonight in the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies are currently the third seed in the very competitive Western Conference thanks to the play of first time All-Star starter Ja Morant. Memphis comes into the contest with a 35-17 record on the season and will be just the second team the 76ers have faced with a better record in the 2022 calendar year.
The 76ers come into tonight’s matchup with a 30-19 record and in third place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Sixers currently hold the third spot in a very crowded East, with the Cavs, Bucks, and Nets all sitting within a game of Philly, making every game count as the All-Star break approaches.
The Grizzlies will come into the matchup with a light but notable injury report. Dillion Brooks, who’s currently averaging 18.4 points a game, is still sidelined with a sprained ankle he suffered back at the top of the month and will miss tonight’s matchup. Backup point-guard Tyus Jones has been in health and safety protocols for the past six-games, but has been officially listed as questionable against the Sixers.
The 76ers have gotten much healthier over the homestand, giving them a much lighter injury report for tonight’s contest. Seth Curry made his return to the lineup against the Kings and carries no injury designation.
Danny Green was seen heading back to the locker room last game before returning, he is also absent on the injury list. Shake Milton has once again been ruled out with a back issue to no surprise. The only new addition is Furkan Korkmaz who is questionable for the game with left knee soreness. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Ben Simmons is not playing tonight.
Joel Embiid is OUT versus Grizzlies, misses out on a 76ers record
Joel Embiid has dominated throughout the month of January. At one point, he strung together eight straight games scoring 30+ points and in doing so, was able to join some of the 76ers legends in the teams record books.
Tonight against the Grizzlies, Embiid had another chance to join another amazing group of Sixers Hall of Famers. If Embiid scored 24 points in tonight’s contest he’ll have scored 500 points in the month of January, a feat only three other 76ers have done in franchise history.
Unfortunately Joel Embiid will not reach that elusive 500 to join some 76ers legends in the record books tonight. Joel will be given a designated rest day for tonight’s contest, and while upsetting to see he won’t get to go record hunting is a good sign for his season as a whole.
76ers can’t afford to start slow against the Grizz
As nice as it has been to watch, Joel Embiid carry this team on his own in some of these games, it will not work against the Grizzlies with Embiid out. Last Saturday against the Kings, we saw the 76ers full-strength starting five return for the first time in over two weeks, but everyone got off to yet another slow start in the game.
Seth Curry only scored eight points in his first game back in over a week. Tobias Harris scored an efficient 16 points but left a lot to be desired, while Tyrese Maxey finished the night with 13 points, two rebounds, seven assists and steal.
The Sixers were down 17 points in the second quarter and at halftime, were down 11 points before Embiid carried the team in the second half, scoring 17 points of his own in the third quarter.
I am willing to give them each a mulligan against a bad Kings team currently wasting the talents of Tyrese Haliburton. For the 76ers, the Grizzlies are a massively better team than Sacramento, and Joel won’t be out there to provide his other-worldly defense or offense.
There have been a couple games this month where Harris and Curry have been effective in helping Embiid out on the offensive end. In Orlando, Curry and Harris combined for 42 points, and against the Celtics the pair each notched 17 points. Tonight with Embiid out, there will be more shots available, and for Philly to have any chance these two guys will have to go nuclear.
The problem is the Grizzlies are too good of a unit to lose with Joel absent from the court. Curry and Harris have to play well above their expected roles on the offensive win for the Sixers to come out with the win. Expect Tyrese Maxey to also show out in expanded minutes with the pressure off him a bit since Joel Embiid will be in street wear.
Contain Ja Morant
Ja Morant will be the only All-Stat starter the 76ers have faced since Kevin Durant and the Nets back on December 30th. Morant is one of the most explosive guards in the game. Combine that with his new three point shot and great playmaking ability and the Sixers have a tall order for tonight’s contest.
Morant is currently averaging 26.1 points, 6 rebounds, and 6.8 assists a game this season, good enough for his first All-Star starter selection of his career. Ja’s quickness and insane hops have made him an instant highlight reel on both ends of the court. Morant has plently of crazy dunks this season, but nothing will personally top what I’m calling the most athletic block I’ve seen in the NBA in my lifetime.
Luckily for the 76ers Matisse Thybulle has done a pretty good job containing the West’s best guards as of late. Thybulle was able to hold Steph Curry to 18 points on a terrible 6-20 shooting and 3-14 from deep while he was hunting the all-time three pointer’s made title.
While Ja Morant is a much different assignment than Steph Curry, my faith in Thybulle remains. The 76ers path to victory is much clearer with Ja Morant contained, and his matchup against Matisse will be must-watch TV.
Tonight’s odds brought to you by Parx Sportsbook, the official gambling partner of The Liberty Line.
|Memphis Grizzlies||-155||-3.5(-112)||O 218(-112)|
|Philadelphia 76ers||-128||+3.5(-109)||U 218(-109)|
It is shocking to me that the spread is still this close with Embiid out for the 76ers. Joel has single-handedly won this team a handful of their games against much worse opponents this month, and now they have to face a top-seeded Memphis team. Myself and Ryan Conway refuse to underestimate Ja Morant and this young Grizzlies team, especially with the MVP out.
One of the 76ers biggest struggles has been fast break defense, and Memphis is currently the leader in fast break points per game this season averaging nearly 17. Combine that with the major loss in rim production with Joel’s absence and things could get ugly.
If you’re looking to pick a straight winner I won’t be picking against Memphis since the Sixers haven’t won a game against a good opponent without Embiid since last November.
I expect the Grizzlies to come out fast especially in transition and take an early lead that the Embiid-less 76ers won’t be able to close. As painful as it is to say I see this contest going the same way their matchup in Memphis went, a game that ended in a 35-point Grizzlies win. A great way to numb the sting of this loss is to get in on the Grizzlies spread, as -3.5 is not enough for the third best team in the West against this short-staffed Sixers lineup.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher.