When: 4:00 PM PT
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
How to Watch: Fox Sports West, AM 570 Radio
Projected Starting Lineups:
Sixers: Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid
Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat
Sixers: Jerryd Bayless Out (Knee), Zhaire Smith Out (Foot surgery), Wilson Chandler Doubtful (Hamstring)
Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute Questionable (Knee)
The Big Picture:
The Clippers sit at 4-3, right in the middle of the early Western Conference standings. After a couple impressive blowout wins over the Rockets and Wizards, they were embarrassed in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night. They had a sizable lead going into the 3rd quarter, then utterly collapsed, proving unable to even get decent looks at the basket, much less make them. On the other end, they were pulverized by Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Steven Adams, who did whatever they wanted on offense regardless of who was covering them. It was a sobering quarter (and game) for the Clippers as well as Clippers’ fans, who had been riding a bit of a high. All signs are that the Clippers will come out extra hard and motivated for tonight’s game though, so having a loss like the one against the Thunder could actually be a good thing in the long haul.
The Sixers have been somewhat disappointing to open the season. They’re 4-4, but from a team who many expected to be in the top tier of the Eastern Conference this year, that’s not a great start. Their wins have all come against bottom-feeding East squads, while three of their losses (by significant margins) came to the Bucks, Celtics, and Raptors, the teams they’re directly competing with for the East crown this season. The Sixers’ bench is mediocre, their starting lineup has been weakened by the insertion of Markelle Fultz, and they lack shooting on offense. Still, a lot is papered over by starpower, and the Sixers have two in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Simmons has struggled a bit to start the season, looking like he hasn’t added much to his game from year 1 to 2, but Embiid has been a monster. He’s averaging 27 and 12 so far this year with 4 assists, and is scoring more efficiently than in previous years. Markelle Fultz has been inconsistent, playing well one half and horribly the next. The one thing that seems obvious is that he and Simmons can’t play together until one learns how to shoot.
- What will the Clippers do against Embiid: Joel Embiid, as mentioned above, is a tough cover for any team in the NBA. But the Clippers are particularly ill-equipped to handle him. Boban Marjanovic is far too slow to cover him out on the perimeter, as is Marcin Gortat. Montrezl Harrell can handle his speed and possibly even strength, but Embiid is too tall for him to effectively shot contest. Danilo Gallinari has the size and quickness, but probably not the strength to handle him down low. I think Harrell and Gallo are probably the Clippers’ best bets on Embiid, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t at least “soft double” him all night, possibly even send hard double-teams if needed. This will especially be the case when the Sixers have their poorer shooting lineups on the court. In that case, watch out for cuts to the rim, as those are good ways to score when teams are too heavily focused on a post-up.
- Which Clippers’ offense shows up: The Clippers’ offense has run very hot and cold so far this season. They were on fire against the Rockets (both games, really), Wizards, and in the 1st half against the Thunder. But in the 3rd quarter against the Thunder, the 4th quarter against the Nuggets, and for much of the game against the Pelicans the Clippers’ offense looked like one of the worst in the NBA. They weren’t just missing shots: they also turned the ball over like crazy, made horrible decisions in general, and failed to get much dribble penetration. While ball movement (or lack thereof) has some part to play in their offensive struggles, I think a lot more of it is about hurrying up the offense in bad ways and rushing decisions. The Clippers lack a star ball-handler or shot creator to consistently bail them out, so they need to value the basketball and make smart decisions. Hopefully they come out focused and composed against the Sixers.
- Will Luc return: Luc Mbah a Moute has missed the past three games with knee soreness, the Clippers’ first injury of the season. While his being out did lead to some fun Milos Teodosic minutes in three-guard lineups against the Rockets and Wiz, his absence was severely felt against the Thunder when Paul George went wild. Luc is probably the Clippers’ best option on Ben Simmons, and they could really use his steady defense tonight. If he can go, expect him to play some crucial minutes, especially if he’s hitting on any open looks he gets.
Be sure to check out the Sixers perspective over at Liberty Ballers, and check back in for the game thread this afternoon.