Sixers Kick off Road Trip with Matchup vs. Celtics

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

After a quick weekend homestand, the Sixers head right back out on the road. They will kick off a four-game road trip on Tuesday night, starting with a matchup against the Boston Celtics. A win in this game would give the Sixers the sweep of the season series.

The Sixers took care of Boston when these teams met in Philadelphia for a 'series' back in January, but they were short-handed. This time around they will have Jayson Tatum, who missed both games due to health and safety protocol.

Boston will be missing players again in this matchup. Newly acquired Evan Fournier and Tristan Thompson will both miss Tuesday's matchup due to health and safety protocols.

After being without Joel Embiid on Sunday against Memphis, it looks like he will take the floor against Boston. As of the latest injury report, only George Hill is listed out with a thumb injury.

Getting Embiid back will be a nice boost for the Sixers, and this is the perfect matchup to get him going after his return from injury. When these teams met in January, Boston had no chance of slowing down the All-Star center.

In game one of the mini-series, Embiid erupted for 42 points and 10 rebounds in just 33 minutes on the floor. He would follow up that performance two days later with 38 points and 11 rebounds in just 30 minutes.

Embiid has had his way with Boston this season, and this version of their roster has no chance to combat him. With Thompson out and Daniel Theis traded, they have minimal frontcourt size to attempt to defend him.

This lack of size should also benefit Ben Simmons. With Embiid commanding all the attention he does, Simmons should have clear lanes to the basket all game.

One player to watch on the Boston side is Jaylen Brown. In the second matchup this season, the first time All-Star dropped 42 points and almost willed the Celtics to victory.

Slowing down the Tatum and Brown combo is no small task, but this is still a matchup that favors the Sixers. With no answer for Embiid, it's going to be tough to stop the Sixers' offense once he gets rolling.

This is just the kind of matchup they need to start the trip off on a high note and get back in the win column.

Matchup notes: 

  • Joel Embiid is shooting 67.6% from the floor against the Celtics this season, his highest mark against any opponent
  • Jaylen Brown is averaging 34.3 PPG on 50% shooting in two matchups against the Sixers this season
  • Marcus Smarts 22.5 PPG against the Sixers are his highest against any opponent this season
  • Shake Milton is averaging 16.2 PPG and shooting 50% from three over his last five games


Grueling schedule, more takeaways from Sixers' weekend split

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

After a season-long six-game road trip, the Sixers finally returned home for a quick homestand. They would start the weekend on a high note beating the Timberwolves in Joel Embiid's return to the lineup. Things would not be the same on Sunday as the Sixers would come out flat and suffer a sixteen-point loss to the Grizzlies.

Here are some takeaways from the weekend's matchups. 

Home sweet home 

Towards the end of the road trip, you could see all the time on the road getting to the Sixers. After their lackluster effort against the Denver Nuggets, it was clear they were a team begging to get back home. 

One thing that stood out in Saturday night's matchup was a complete 180 in terms of energy from this team. Whether it was from Embiid making his return, playing on the home court, or both, the Sixers looked like a team revitalized. 

Little rust from Joel Embiid 

After missing three weeks due to injury, one thing to keep an eye on was how rusty Joel Embiid would look in his return. Doc Rivers said multiple times that he looked good during his rehab time, but being conditioned for the NBA game is something you don't fully grasp until you're out on the floor. 

That being said, there was minimal rust from Embiid against the T-Wolves on Saturday. He would score 24 points and grab eight rebounds while playing just under 29 minutes. 

Even after missing ten games, he managed to keep his feel for the game. This was very apparent in his ability to draw fouls, as he would go to the free-throw line 17 times.

Another area that stood out was his timing on defense. The All-Star center would block three shots, one of them being a crucial block on rookie Anthony Edwards late in the game to seal the victory. 

Seeing how easy Embiid was able to get back into the flow of the game is a major positive moving forward. In the past, it had taken him some time to get his rhythm back after missing time, this just speaks volumes to how diligent he has been maintaining his body and condition this season.  

Tobias Harris attacking mismatches 

We are running out of words to describe the emergence of Tobias Harris this season, but he needs to continue to see praise. He was without a doubt the star for the Sixers over both games this weekend. 

Sliding Harris back to his natural position has made him a much more impactful player on the offensive end. With all the size in the Sixers' lineup, teams have had to pick their poison when defending Harris, Embiid, and Ben Simmons. 

This was apparent in both matchups as Minnesota and Memphis would both attempt to put smaller wing players on Harris. He saw these mismatches and did not stop attacking them, going off for 32 and 21 points in each game. 

Harris's confidence and aggressiveness to see a mismatch and continually go at it have been a huge growth in his game this season. This should be a big boost in the postseason when the game slows down, and teams look to attack weaker defensive matchups. 

Forcing things on offense 

One area that hurt the Sixers in their loss to the Grizzlies was outside shooting. As a team, they would shoot 23.5%, only hitting eight of their 34 attempts. This poor shooting performance would affect the Sixers' offense on many levels. 

The drive-and-kick game is something that Doc Rivers is always speaking highly about, and for good reason, with a guy like Ben Simmons on the roster. When the shots aren't falling, this approach isn't exactly the remedy for success. 

Not to mention, when shooters go cold it allows the defense to shrink the floor, making life harder for Simmons and Harris to attack around the rim. 

Playing this style isn't an issue with the firepower power on this roster. The concern is continuing to go to it when the well is dry. It was clear early on that the shot was not there in that game, but they just kept trying to make it happen. 

This is not a major issue as it is just one game throughout a long season, but adapting to the flow of the game is something this team will need to master if they want to make a deep run in the postseason. 

Grueling schedule taking its toll 

All the energy the Sixers came out with in game one would be short-lived as they looked gassed against the Grizzlies. As we come into the home stretch of the regular season, this compact stretch of games looks to be taking its toll. 

This part of the schedule has not been favorable to the Sixers, to say the least. After spending almost two weeks on the road, they come home only to be playing in a back-to-back. Then after just three days at home, they head back out on the road for their next four games. 

The team has done its best to stay afloat, but it's clear the grueling schedule is wearing them down. This is something that every team has had to deal with, but there has to be a concern that this rigorous schedule doesn't leave this group depleted before the playoffs. 


Shake Milton Erupts in Blowout Win Over Cavaliers

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Sixers would take on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night looking to end a two-game losing skid. They would also be looking to pick up their first win against this Cavs team as they had won the previous two matchups.

Behind a strong performance from the supporting cast, the Sixers would pick up a blowout victory. They would beat the Cavs by a final score of 114-94 and finish 4-2 on this season-long road trip.

Shake Milton would wind up being the star of the night for the Sixers. He would knock down some shots early and never look back. When all was said and done he would have a team-high 27 points in just 27 minutes of action.

What stood out most from Milton's performance was his three-point shooting. His shot has been up and down all season, but he would find the range in this one. Milton was spotting up all over the confidently stepping into shots from beyond the arc. He would end the game with five triples on just seven attempts.

Another Sixer who would catch fire in this game is Seth Curry. He would also step out and hit five threes en route to being the team's second-leading scorer with 19 points. Over this recent stretch of games, Curry has been less reluctant to pass up good looks and it would pay off against the Cavs.

Dwight Howard has had his struggles during this road trip but would put on a great performance to end things on a high note. He would rack up a double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.

He had his lapses in the two games against the LA teams, but Howard reminded everyone tonight how impactful he can be when he remains locked in.

Lack of energy was a key area that hurt the Sixers in their last game against Denver, and they would not make the same mistake twice against the Cavaliers. The defense effort in this game compared to their last game would be a night and day all-around. As a team, they would grab 11 steals and block eight shots.

What was most impressive about this win is that they pulled it off even with subpar nights from Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris. Harris would finish with just 12 points in 15 minutes of action, having to sit a large part of this game due to foul trouble. Simmons was aggressive from the start but would struggle to get his shots to fall. He would end the night shooting 2-11 with five points.

With this win, the Sixers improve to 33-15 on the year and winners of five of their last seven games. They still remain half a game behind the Brooklyn Nets for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Looking ahead, the team will travel back to Philly for a matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves. We could also potentially see Joel Embiid make his triumphant return to the lineup.


Road Trip Taking Toll in Loss vs. Nuggets

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Sixers would be back in action on Tuesday night, looking to bounce back from a loss to the LA Clippers on Saturday. Next up on their road trip would be potential MVP candidate Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.

This game would be part five of a season-high six-game road trip for the Sixers, and it showed. The road trip looks to be taking its toll as the Sixers would have a lack of energy for a majority of the contest.

Despite some valiant efforts from the Sixers in the second half, Denver would take this game rather easily. They would pick up a wire-to-wire victory by a final score of 104-95, handing the Sixers their second straight loss.

The Nuggets came out of the gates firing and really set the tone early. They would score 44 points on almost 70% in the opening quarter to bury the Sixers in a deep hole early. This early deficit would prove to be just too much to overcome.

Two key factors stood out from this loss, tired legs and carelessness with the ball. Turnovers have been a weak point for the Sixers throughout this season, and it showed in the first quarter. The Sixers would eventually cough the ball up 11 times, resulting in 13 points for the Nuggets.

Lack of energy would be the other key area that led to the Sixers' dropping this game to Denver. Almost from the opening tip, they looked sluggish and played like a team just trying to survive a road trip. This lack of energy would hurt them most defensively, as it allowed the Nuggets to move the ball and step in wide-open jump shots countless times.

Offensive struggles were apparent up and down the Sixers' lineup. They would shoot just 42.7% as a team, with Tyrese Maxey being the leading scorer with 13 points. Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons would be not far behind him with 12 and 11 points respectively.

Part of these losses can be attributed to playing good teams back to back, but that is no excuse. For a team that has prided itself on its ability to shut teams down defensively, the Sixers have had troubles on that side of the floor for the second straight game.

After playing so well to kick off this road trip, this team is starting to look like a team that is missing its star player.

Looking ahead, the Sixers have one more game to get through before they get to head back home to the Wells Fargo Center. The finale of this road trip will be a chance to get some redemption against a Cleveland Cavaliers team that has had their number this season.  


Report: Sixers Convert Paul Reed's Contract and Sign Mason Jones

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The dust has finally settled from the NBA trade deadline, and teams are starting to regroup. After acquiring George Hill in a three-team trade, the Sixers have an extra roster spot at their disposal. Daryl Morey did not waste time filling that spot as the team has made two roster moves on Friday night.

Their first move involves G-League standout, Paul Reed. Now that the G-League season has concluded, Reed finds himself back on the end of the Sixers' bench. His performance with the Delaware Blue Coats must have raised some eyebrows as the team has decided to convert his contract to a standard NBA deal.

The terms of Reed's new deal have not been released yet, but he will likely receive a multi-year deal. After walking away with MVP and Rookie of the Year honors in the G-League, Reed has more than earned an NBA contract.

With Reed's contracted being converted, there is now an open two-way slot on the roster. The second move the team has made is signing Mason Jones to fill that spot.

Jones is a six-foot-five athletic wing who could provide a nice spark if give a chance to get on the floor. The 22-year-old spent some time this season with the Houston Rockets, appeared in 26 games. In that time he would average just under six points per game, playing about 12 minutes a game.

This move will reunite Jones with rookie Isaiah Joe, as the two both played their college ball at Arkansas. In Jones' second and final season at Arkansas, he led the team in scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals.

One thing Jones will be adding to this roster is more shooting. He shot 35.9% from beyond in his time with the Rockets, and in his sophomore season in college shot 35.1% on six attempts per game.

These moves are not big splashes in any sense but have the potential to make an impact down the road. This roster is going to have multiple open spots with all the expiring contracts, making moves in the margins like this might aid Morey in the offseason as he looks to revamp things.

There is always talk about how Shake Milton is vastly underpaid for what he brings to the team, and we could be saying the same thing about Reed down the road. If the Sixers lock him up for multiple years now, it could look great as he continues to develop.

It is unclear how much we see of Jones this season as the Sixers look to maintain their top spot in the conference, but he isn't a bad guy to take a flier on. In today's game you can never have enough ball-handling and outside shooting, and Jones brings both.

With Reed taking the final roster spot, this could change how the team approaches the deadline. If they do decide to make a move, it will likely result in newly acquired Ignaz Brazdeikis being waived or released.


Sixers Surge Late to Hold Off Warriors' Comeback

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

After picking up a one-point overtime win in New York, the Sixers would be back in action for part two of their six-game road trip. Next up would be the Stephen Curry-less Golden State Warriors for the start of a west coast swing.

Things would get shaky in the second half, but the Sixers would be able to hold on. They would go on to win this game by a final score of 108-98, improving to 31-13 on the year and keeping a full game lead for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

This game would be another tale of two halves. The Sixers would take control early and dominate for a large majority of the first half, then things would take a turn in the third quarter. Golden State would erupt for 40 points in the third quarter and get themselves back within striking distance.

When the fourth quarter began the Sixers would lock in and take back control of the game. Defensively they would hold the Warriors to just 13 points, and they would hit multiple shots down the stretch to seal the victory.

Despite some struggles from the second unit, the Sixers would still manage a balanced attack. Six different players would break double-figures, including all five starters.

The standout player for the Sixers in this one would have to be Tony Bradley. He continues to provide solid minutes in the starting lineup in the absence of Joel Embiid. Bradley would post a career-high with 18 points and come down with 11 rebounds. On top of the career-high, he would also shoot a perfect 8-8 from the floor.

Tobias Harris would also keep up his high level of play in this one as he looks to hold down the fort while this team gets healthy. He would lead the team with 25 points while coming down with 13 rebounds and dishing four assists. His play down the stretch was crucial in pulling out the victory.

Ben Simmons would come out the gates in attack mode and never let up. He would end the night as the Sixers' second-leading scorer with 22 points. What stood out most from his performance was his ability to draw fouls and get to the line.

Simmons would attempt 14 of the team's 35 free-throws, making eight of them. After a quiet stretch of not getting to the line, it was good to see him get back to getting downhill and forcing the defense to foul him in an attempt to stop him.

Free-throw shooting was something that hurt the Sixers against the Knicks, and unfortunately it would carry over into this matchup. After leaving nine points at the line on Sunday, they would leave 12 points at the line against the Warriors.

It wasn't great letting the Warriors get back into this game after leading big early, but this was still a good effort from the Sixers in this win. They showed yet again that they can lock in and shut down teams defensively when they need to.

Despite all the injuries and guys constantly being in and out of the lineup, this Sixers team continues to find ways to keep winning.

Looking ahead, the Sixers will be off on Wednesday and back in action on Thursday. Their next matchup will be against Kyle Kuzma and a depleted Los Angles Lakers squad.  


"I'm an All-Star," more takeaways from win over Knicks

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Sixers would take the court Tuesday night looking to extend their winning streak to six games. They would host Julius Randle and the New York Knicks in the first leg of a back-to-back. 

Things would not go the Sixers' way for most of this game, but they would still find a way to hang on. After some big defensive stops and late-game heroics from Tobias Harris, the Sixers would walk away with a 99-96 victory. 

Here are some takeaways from the matchup. 

Seth Curry returning to form 

Seth Curry started this season scorching hot shooting the ball for the Sixers. But after coming down with Covid, he hasn't looked the same. It is starting to look like all he needed was some extra rest. In the four games to start to the second half of the season, he has started to look like his old self again. 

He would be the team's second-leading scorer in last night's win over the Knicks. Scoring 20 points on solid 7-14 shooting. Most importantly, Curry stepped out and hit four of his seven attempts from beyond the arc. 

Getting Curry back to his regular self is going to be crucial as the team looks to stay afloat without Embiid. After seeing the way he stepped up and hit big shots against the Knicks, he looks ready to help Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris lead the charge for the coming weeks. 

Dwight Howard turning back time 

Dwight Howard is another Sixers who has had some up-and-down play this season as well. Since Embiid has gone down, Howard has shown why signing him at the veteran's minimum was looked at as a steal. 

In this recent run, Howard has been able to turn back the clock with some extended minutes. He picked up another double-double against the Knicks, scoring 11 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. 

Howard is not the same level of rim protector as Embiid, but he has reminded everyone why he was a top player at the position earlier in his career. In the guts of the game, he would block a Julius Randle dunk attempt in a play that would help shift the momentum back in the Sixers' favor. 

Having a vet like Howard has been a great fallback option for the Sixers in their current situation. He keeps himself ready for anything on a nightly basis and has helped hold down the center minutes in Embiid's absence.  

Tobias Harris: "I'm an All-Star" 

The Tobias Harris revenge tour continued Tuesday night against the Knicks. It might have had to do with All-Star Julius Randle being on the opposing team, but Harris continues to make his statement of being one of the biggest snubs this season. 

After a slow start from the Sixers offensively, Harris would take it upon himself to get things started. He would go on to score a game-high 30 points, hitting 11 of his 20 field goal attempts and knocking down four shots from beyond the arc. 

Harris has been the go-to guy for the Sixers late in games, and the same would happen last night. He would hit multiple shots in the closing minutes to help seal this victory for the Sixers. 

His biggest moment of the night would be when he hit a post fadeaway over Reggie Bullock to extend the Sixers' lead to four in the final two minutes. Harris then turned to the home crowd yelling "I'm an All-Star." 

Not being named an All-Star has lit a fire under Harris. He has played like a man determined to silence all of his doubters. 


Balanced attack, more takeaways from win over Spurs

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Sixers would host fans for the first time at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday night. Despite not having Joel Embiid, the team would go out and give the home crowd something to be excited about.

They would take control of the game early on and never look back. Leading by as much as 42 at one point, the Sixers would beat the Spurs by a final score of 134-99. This loss is their largest loss in franchise history.

Here are some takeaways from the blowout victory.

Balanced attack continues 

One thing that has stood out from the Sixers through their first three games coming out of the break is their balanced attack on offense. They have had at least six players in double figures in each of their last three games.

The supporting cast couldn't have picked a better time to get hot as the team is preparing to play without Embiid for the coming weeks. Replacing him is not going to be easy, but the Sixers are filling the void he leaves the right way.

When are a star player is out, occasionally you might see a player try to do too much in an attempt to make up for the lost production. That was not the case in the Sixers' win over the Spurs on Sunday night.

Everyone on the team did a great job of playing within themselves and not trying to replace Embiid on their own. This collectiveness resulted in every player recording a made basket except Terrance Ferguson.

Replacing Embiid's numbers on a nightly basis is not going to be easy, but spreading the extra shots throughout the whole team is crucial if they want to weather the storm.

Rejuvenated second unit 

In the final games before the All-Star break, the Sixers' second unit looked to be breaking out their slump. That momentum has carried over into the second half and has been a key factor in the team having a balanced attack with one of their stars.

The bench has now put up 56 points in back-to-back games. This resurgence has been led by Furkan Korkmaz, who has started to get hot from beyond the arc. Matisse Thybulle has also been a boost offensively, shooting the ball efficiently from deep and being effective as a cutter.

Dwight Howard has also given solid production in the absence of Embiid. He continues to work well in the pick-and-roll with Shake Milton and Korkmaz and has even grown as a lob threat recently.

The week off looks like it has done wonders for the second unit. As a group, they look refreshed, and it has reflected in their play. They are starting to look like the deep bench that Doc Rivers spoke highly off early on in the regular season.

Tobias Harris revenge tour 

When All-Star teams were announced, many Sixers' fans thought Tobias Harris was a snub for a reserve spot. Harris being the professional that he is hasn't seemed to let it phase him. When asked about it, he jokingly said he told Doc Rivers that has a bounty on the coaches that didn't vote for him. 

Harris might be unbothered at not being named an All-Star, but he has continued to step up his play since the teams were named. He would post a near triple-double against the Spurs, finishing with 23 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. 

At times throughout the season, Harris' All-Star level play was overlooked because of the MVP-caliber play of Joel Embiid. But now that Embiid is out, it is a chance for Harris to show just how vital he has been to the Sixers' success. 

Whether it's on or off the floor, Harris is looked at as a leader of this team. His performance against the Spurs showed a glimpse of how good Harris is at stepping up and back throughout a game when needed. 

He did a great job providing his usual efficient scoring, but he also did a great job as a facilitator and getting good looks for the players around him. Rivers has experimented with him as a 'point forward' with the bench unit at times, and it was something that worked well against the Spurs. 

With Embiid out for the coming weeks, it is going to be on Harris and Ben Simmons to lead the charge for the Sixers. After seeing his ability to fill the entire box score and get his teammates involved, Harris is more than ready to weather the storm until the team is back to full health.  


Joel Embiid Injury Update

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Sixers fans can all exhale now. After suffering a scary knee injury last night against the Wizards, we have an update on Joel Embiiid. Adrain Wojnarowski has reported that Embiid's MRI came back clean and that there is no structural damage within his injured knee. Most importantly, his ACL and meniscus are fine.

Shams Charania reported that his injury is being labeled as a bone bruise and that he is expected to miss 2-3 weeks. It's not the greatest news, but it is much better than losing the All-Star center for the remainder of the season.

Suffering this injury drastically hurts Embiid's MVP chances as he now will miss a big stretch of games. Even in a best-case scenario where he only misses two weeks, he would still miss a total of eight games.

Looking at the schedule there will be some tough matchups the Sixers will now be without Embiid for. Including a west coast swing where the team will face the Warriors, Lakers, and Clippers. He will also miss the team's first game this season against the Milwaukee Bucks.

What's most important is that Embiid did not suffer a significant injury, and we will see him on the floor again this season.

It will now be on Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris to weather the storm until Embiid is ready to get back into action. If the supporting cast can continue to play at the high level they have brought coming out of the break, it should help fill the void with Embiid out.

Only losing Embiid for 2-3 weeks should be a huge sigh of relief. He will be back on the floor in no time, and there will be enough games left for him to be more than game ready come the postseason.


Sixers Sweep Road Trip with Win Over Wizards

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

After a convincing win in Chicago on Thursday night, the Sixers would travel to Washington for the second half of a back-to-back. Their strong play against the Bulls would carry over as they would go out and dominate the Wizards, winning by a final score of 127-101.

Joel Embiid would clear protocol and make his return to the lineup in this one, but the fun would be short-lived. After dominating for most of the first half, things would take a turn for the worst in the third quarter.

After sailing in for a dunk, Embiid's left knee would buckle and he would go crashing to the floor. He would stay on the floor for moments after and would eventually be helped up and to the locker room. The team has listed it as a "left knee injury" and that he will undergo an MRI when the team gets back to Philadelphia.

Before suffering his injury Embiid was his usual dominant self. He would shoot 8-11 from the floor en route to scoring 23 points in just 20 minutes of action.

Being without their stars again it was on the Sixers' supporting cast to weather the storm. They would put together another balanced attack as five different players would break double-figures along with Embiid.

Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz would lead the charge off the bench tonight as both would score 18 points. Milton would hit eight of his 14 shot attempts from the floor, and Korkmaz would shoot a stellar 4-5 from beyond the arc.

The bench unit has been a key area of improvement for the Sixers, but you wouldn't believe in these two games coming out of the break. After scoring 55 bench points against the Bulls, the bench would go off for 56 points against the Wizards.

A key standout for the Sixers in this back-to-back has to be Matisse Thybulle. With Ben Simmons not being available, it would be on him to fill the void Simmons leaves defensively. Thybulle would have two tough matchups in Zach LaVine and Bradley Beal, and he would go out and show just how special he is on defense.

The second year defensive specialist would hold both All-Stars to under 20 points in respective games. Including his incredible on-ball defense, he would rack up eight steals throughout both games. On the offensive end, he would score eight points on 4-6 shooting from the floor.

These were two very impressive wins from the Sixers to come out of the break. The supporting cast deserves major credit for getting the momentum going to start the second half with Embiid and Simmons being forced to sit.

Looking ahead, the Sixers will be off on Saturday and back in action on Sunday for a matchup at home against the San Antonio Spurs.