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By Dan Knerr, Sports Talk Philly staff

 Tip-off: 7:00 pm ❖Location: Philadelphia, PA ❖TV: NBCSP  ❖Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

The Philadelphia 76ers (37-30) will host the Brooklyn Nets (21-47) tonight after the two teams met less than a week ago.  When these teams squared off on March 11, the Sixers took care of business winning by a final of 120-97.

Tonight will be the second leg of a road-home back-to-back for the Sixers, and the they will need to come out with a better level of energy and discipline than they started with last night against the Knicks. Luckily, they were able to outscore the Knicks by 16 in the final quarter and escape with a win.

Simmons coming off consecutive triple-doubles

Ben Simmons is coming in off of back-to-back triple-doubles.  On Tuesday against Indiana, he tallied 10 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.  Last night, he stuffed the stat sheet again racking up 13 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, and a steal.

What a beautiful sight.

This has become somewhat of the norm for Ben, and with his eighth triple-double of the season last night, he passed Magic Johnson for second most triple-doubles in a rookie season.  What’s even more amazing is that he passed this milestone with 15 games remaining this season. 

It would be great to see him bump his free-throw percentage up, but it’s hard to argue with the historic level of overall production from this budding phenom.

He looked more aggressive attacking the rim last night, which is a good sign.  A willingness from Simmons to go attack the rim at will is something that will be incredibly valuable in big games going forward for the Sixers.  He will look to keep his string of good games going tonight.

There has also been some buzz about comments that Brett Brown made before the game yesterday.  He said that he doesn't necessarily see Simmons as strictly a point guard.  He opened up the possibility of him also getting minutes as the power forward as he is listed as both a point guard and power forward. 

This is all hypothetical at this point, but it could make sense going forward for the Sixers to have the flexibility of having a lineup with Simmons and two guards on the floor at once.  Although it seems that Simmons' best fit is at point guard, being capable of playing the power forward position could be beneficial for the team in certain instances.

Ben did not seem pleased with the idea.

But Simmons did say that he was open to playing the four position in certain instances, just not as a predominant role.  This seems to go in line with what Brown was thinking.

Despite these comments, it is doubtful that he will see time at the power forward position tonight.  This might be an idea for when Fultz comes back, or in a specific sequence in a playoff situation.

Recent Success for D'Angelo Russell

In his last two games, Nets’ guard D’Angelo Russell has been on fire.  On Sunday in a loss against the Sixers, he dropped 26 points on nine-of-17 shooting, and on Tuesday he dropped 32 against Toronto.  These were two breakout games for a player who averages 16.1 points per game on the season.

He shot a combined 11-for-20 (55%) from behind the arc in these two performances, which included an outburst of seven triples in the first quarter alone against Toronto.

He is just a 32.6% three-point shooter on the season, so this has been a huge increase in efficiency from the third-year guard out of Ohio State.

The Sixers will need to contain him tonight and prevent him from getting into a rhythm and lighting up the scoreboard like he is capable of doing.

In their last match-up with the Sixers, he went on a tear early in the third quarter in which he single-handedly made the Sixers scramble for answers on the defensive end.  He hit a flurry of consecutive jumpers that made a game that was otherwise a complete blowout feel like a close affair, albeit only for no more than a few minutes.

Although that time the Sixers stomped out any hopes of a comeback courtesy of Russell, tonight could be a different story if they are not wary of the threat he poses.

It is important to note that in the game versus Toronto where he went seven-for-eight from three-point land in the first quarter, he proceeded to miss his remaining five shots from downtown.

He is a historically streaky shooter, and as long as he isn’t allowed the open space to hit a few jumpers to heat up, can be controlled.

Okafor's Return to Philly

Jahlil Okafor will be returning to Philadelphia for the first time since the trade earlier this season that sent him, Nik Stauskas, and a draft pick to Brooklyn in exchange for Trevor Booker.

Okafor has continued to be a disappointment for the Nets.  He hasn't played in nine of the last 10 games, with the only game he got playing time in being against the Sixers. 

It will be interesting to see how Wells Fargo Center greets him, I would assume with many boos and jeers.

Nets' coach Kenny Atkinson had some interesting workds to say about the big man after their last game, hinting that Okafor's style of play may not fit in today's NBA.  Here's what he had to say, courtesy of the New York Post

"The game's not a post-up game anymore," he said. "Valanciunas got most of his stuff on the pick-and-roll, that’s really what happened. It was two post-ups, maybe, so it wasn’t like they were dumping it down like the old days and they were beating us in the post. A lot of it was from pick-and-rolls. If you look at our rim protection numbers, Jarrett’s our best guy.”

It's clear that Okafor is losing favor with his new team in Brooklyn just like he did in Philadelphia.  This helps vindicate the Sixers' unwillingness to keep him in the rotation during his tenure with the team.

We'll see if Atkinson gives Okafor some time tonight to seek revenge against his former team.

 

Matchup Preview | March 16, 2018
@
Brooklyn Nets
(21-47, 9-24 Away)
  Philadelphia 76ers
(37-30, 20-11 Home)
Stats Comparison
105.8 Points Per Game 107.9
110.2 PPG Allowed 105.6
43.6% Field Goal % 46.8%
34.9% 3-Point % 36.5%
77.9% Free Throw % 75.7%
44.8 Rebounds 46.7
4.24 Blocks 4.97
6.21 Steals 8.07
14.4 Turnovers 16.4
Projected Starters
Spencer Dinwiddie Point Guard Ben Simmons
D'Angelo Russell Shooting Guard J.J. Redick
Allen Crabbe* Small Forward Robert Covington
DeMarre Carroll Power Forward Dario Saric
Jarrett Allen* Center Joel Embiid
Injury Report
Jeremy Lin
(out/knee)
  Furkan Korkmaz
(out/foot)
Allen Crabbe*
(illness/questionable)
  Markelle Fultz
(out/shoulder)
Jarrett Allen*
(foot/probable)
   

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