Sixers look for eighth straight home win against Knicks

By Brandon Apter, Sports Talk Philly editor

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

The Philadelphia 76ers (28-25) play host to the New York Knicks (23-34) tonight at the Wells Fargo Center as the Sixers look for their eighth straight win at home. The last time that the Sixers lost in Philadelphia was back on December 21 against Toronto, but they lost a technical "home game" to Boston in London. Since their London trip though, they've tallied home victories against the Raptors, Bucks, Bulls, Heat, Wizards, Pelicans and Clippers. Philadelphia will also look to keep the city winning streak alive. The Flyers and Sixers are a combined 7-0 since the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, the Knicks are trending in the other direction. New York has lost six in a row and nine of their last 11. To add insult to injury, Kristaps Porzingis went down with a season-ending ACL tear last week. Since then, they've added Emmanuel Mudiay to the mix at the trade deadline, but they remain on a bad skid without their best player.

Embiid vs. Kanter

With Porzingis sidelined for the remainder of the season, Joel Embiid and Enes Kanter will go head-to-head. Even back on the Christmas day matchup between the Knicks and Sixers, Embiid was matched up on Kanter more so than Porzingis, who played power forward primarily. The two bigs had a great battle as Joel Embiid had 25 points,16 rebounds and Philadelphia got the win, but Kanter was a beast on the glass, grabbing 22 boards (11 offensive), tying a career-high, to go along with his 31 points. After the game, Kanter was complimentary of Embiid.

"I respect the guy a lot because that guy didn't play three, four years and coming back (at the) level he's playing right now," Kanter said of Embiid after the December 25 match-up. "So it's cool to play against, go against a guy like that."

Embiid's task tonight will be to try and out-duel Kanter on the offensive glass. Back during the Christmas game, New York out-rebounded the Sixers 18-12 on the offensive glass.  They tied the game with just over five minutes to play, but Philadelphia scored seven straight points to take control. Joel also had six turnovers in his last game against New York.

Tonight will mark Joel Embiid's 44th game in 54 team games. He's on pace to play 67.

A look at the standings

After losing three straight, the Sixers have won three of four and notched their ninth straight win at home on Saturday against the Clippers. At 28-25, the Sixers still remain in the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Detroit (27-28) had won five in a row, but has since lost two straight to the Clippers and Hawks. That puts Philadelphia two games ahead of the Pistons at this point. The Hornets are in the No. 10 spot in the East, 6.5 games behind the Sixers after losing four in a row.

Looking up in the standings, the Sixers are just a half game behind Miami (30-26) for the the 7th seed. Philadelphia defeated the Heat 103-97 on February 2 and host them again on Wednesday, so if the Sixers win tonight, they could tie Miami in the standings. The Heat play on Tuesday night in Toronto before heading to Philadelphia for the second half of a back-to-back. Both the Bucks (31-24) and Pacers (32-35) sit two games ahead of the Sixers in the No. 5 and No. 6 spots. Washington (32-24) is only 2.5 games up on the Sixers while the No. 3 seeded Cavaliers (33-22) are four games ahead.

Here's a complete look at the Eastern Conference playoff picture:



Saric performing consistently in the shadows

When most casual NBA fans think of the Sixers, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are likely the two players that come to mind. One guy who has been linked to the process through the entirety of the process is Dario Saric and the Croatian forward is quietly having a phenomenal stretch of basketball that is being overshadowed by Simmons, Embiid and the Markelle Fultz situation.

Through five games during the month of February, Saric is averaging 17.4 points per game, shooting 50.8 percent from the floor and 44.4 percent from beyond the arc. In addition to that, he's grabbed 7+ rebounds and dished 4+ in three of those five games. Prior to a tough night against the Clippers, Saric had hit 16 of 25 shots, including six for nine from beyond the arc. 

Dario's versatility, toughness and court vision make him a problem on the glass and offensively especially as of late. Dario is shooting 44.7 percent this season, 2.2 points above his career average and his three-point percentage (.381) this season is 40 points higher than his career average of 34.1.

Sports Talk Philly's Dan Knerr penned his first piece for the site on Dario Saric this morning about how he embodies what it means to play in Philadelphia.

Bench reinforcement on the way…

The Sixers decided to stand pat and not make a move at the deadline. They were linked to Tyreke Evans, Lou Williams and Marco Belinelli. Shortly after the deadline, the Hawks reached a buy-out agreement with Belinelli and it wasn't too long before he reportedly committed to sign with the Sixers upon his free agency Monday. The newest Sixer officially signed papers on Monday, but seems unlikely to play tonight. He'll get more minutes on Wednesday when the Heat visit Philadelphia.

Belinelli will bring a much needed scoring boost to a Sixers bench that averages 27.1 points per game, good for 26th in the NBA. The Sixers bench also sports a 29th ranked three-point percentage (.321). Belinelli should help both the overall scoring and the perimeter shooting, helping stretch the floor for the second unit off the bench. The 31-year-old is in his 11th NBA season and is averaging 11.4 points per game, shooting 41 percent from the floor and 37.2 percent from beyond the arc.

With Belinelli coming aboard, look for Jerryd Bayless and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to get more DNP-Coach's Decision's.

Projected Lineups

Matchup Preview  |  February 12, 2018
New York Knicks
(23-34, 7-23 Away)
  Philadelphia 76ers
(28-25, 16-10 Home)
Projected Starters
Jarrett Jack Point Guard Ben Simmons
Courtney Lee Shooting Guard J.J. Redick
Tim Hardaway Jr. Small Forward Robert Covington
Michael Beasley Power Forward Dario Saric
Enes Kanter Center Joel Embiid
Injury Report
Ron Baker (shoulder/out)
  Markelle Fultz (shoulder/out)
Joakim Noah (personal/out)
  Furkan Korkmaz (foot/out)
Kristaps Porzingis(ACL/out)
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