Preview: 76ers host the OKC Thunder tonight in South Philadelphia
The first contest for the Philadelphia 76ers post trade deadline is a matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder at Wells Fargo Center.
The Thunder come into this matchup exactly 20 games under .500 with a 17-37 record so far this season. If it weren’t for the dumpster fire that is the Houston Rockets, OKC would be the worst team in the Western Conference.
Despite the loss to the Suns on Wednesday the 76ers still hold the fifth spot in the Eastern standings with a 32-22 record. With how tight the East is at the top, the Sixers are still just three games out from the top seed.
The 76ers have four more games on the schedule ahead of the All-Star Break in mid-February. Two of those contests are in the back-to-back format with tonight’s game against the Thunder and Saturday against the Cavaliers. Luckily for the Sixers both of these games will be at home, but it is still worth mentioning with how tough it can be to play two games within 24 hours of each other.
James Harden’s Debut
Now obviously the biggest thing on the minds of 76ers fans is the premiere of James Harden in Sixers threads. The current understanding around the team is that Harden will likely not arrive in Philadelphia until the weekend. That means he won’t play in either of the Sixers back-to-back games including tonight against the Thunder.
Once Harden arrives the 76ers organization wants to evaluate him fully, especially after recently missing time due to a hamstring issue. With that in mind, there is speculation that Harden might not debut for the 76ers until after the All-Star Break to ensure he is fully healthy for the rest of the season.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (out)
- Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (out)
- Aaron Wiggins (out)
- Mike Muscala (out)
- KZ Okpala (out)
- Isaiah Robey (out)
- Tyrese Maxey (Questionable)
- Shake Milton (Questionable)
- James Harden (Out)
- Paul Millsap (Out)
Bench/Young Guys Need to Step Up
With both acquisitions in the Harden-Simmons trade not playing tonight against the Thunder and potentially until the All-Star Break, the rotation needs to step up to put wins together. OKC certainly isn’t a big-time opponent, but the 76ers have a knack for playing down to competition and starting games slow.
Philly doesn’t have the efficient shooting of Seth Curry and the leagues best backup center Andre Drummond anymore. The depth is very thin for the Sixers, and when Embiid or Harris need rest the second unit can’t collapse.
Luckily the 76ers have made a few roster moves with the Delaware Blue Coats to bring in more depth for tonight’s contest. Both Paul Reed and rookie Jaden Springer have been recalled for tonight’s game against the Thunder. Springer hasn’t been with the Sixers since last Christmas, and could finally see legitamite playing time up until the All-Star break.
Paul Reed will likely be utilized more than usual with the absence of a backup center for the 76ers. If Philly can get good minutes out of these two and the rest of the rotation, they’ll be in good shape tonight and moving forward.
Contain Josh Giddey
While the Thunder are certainly one of the worst teams in the league this year record-wise, they do have a couple young guys with huge potential on their roster. At the top of that list is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but he’s not playing against the 76ers tonight. Josh Giddey is the next one on that list thanks to his ability to facilitate the Thunder offense at a high level.
Josh Giddey is currently averaging 12 points, 7.6 boards, and 6.2 assists a game in his rookie campaign. Not to mention Giddey is already in the NBA record books, becoming the youngest player to record a triple-double in a game. Giddey’s scoring still needs to develop, but the 76ers need to contain him as he facilitates so much of this Thunder offense (stop me if this reminds you of a certain former Sixer).
Tonight’s odds brought to you by Parx Sportsbook, the official gambling partner of The Liberty Line.
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+13.5 (-109)||+800||O 206.5 (-113)|
|Philadelphia 76ers||-13.5 (-112)||-1430||U 206.5 (-108)|
Despite the fact that neither of the 76ers recent acquisitions will play tonight, it seems like the odds still favor the 76ers heavily. The Thunder are certainly beat up right now, but the 76ers have clear holes without Harden or Millsap suiting up tonight.
Despite that, I think that the way so many of the Sixers have stepped up as of late, combined with the high spirits in Philly will lead to a big win against OKC. Embiid will dominate, and I expect Harris to continue the stellar play that has gone almost unnoticed amid all the trade news.
Maybe I am just riding high myself, but I really don’t see the 76ers playing a close game against a bottom five team in the league after the big news yesterday.
Mandatory Credit: Zach Beeker