Sixers Kick-Off Stretch Of 5 Games in 7 Days
The Philadelphia 76ers (3-3) had a forgettable 1-2 record in their three games last week and they will have an opportunity to get back where they want to be this week. Heading into the season, the Sixers were picked by many experts to finish in the top-3 in the East, and that can obviously can still happen, but they are in the process of still finding their mojo early on. The Sixers earned close wins over Chicago and Orlando before dropping games to both Milwaukee and Detroit. The Bucks are still undefeated. Philadelphia returned home and defeated the Hornets in another close contested game that included a less than 100 percent Joel Embiid and a rare Ben Simmons game in which he had issues finishing at the rim.
This week, the Sixers will have their work cut out for them, playing five games in seven games, including two back-to-backs. Through the first couple of weeks, Joel Embiid is in the top-10 in minutes played, which isn't great considering this is his first season with no restriction and this busy week ahead. Ideally, the Sixers are able to build leads in these games and get Embiid some rest so he isn't gassed by mid-week.
Here's a look at who the Sixers will be going against this week:
Monday vs. Hawks (2-3): The Sixers will welcome back former assistant coach Lloyd Pierce and guard Justin Anderson when the Hawks come to town on Monday. Atlanta is off to an uneven start, losing two in a row to the Knicks and Grizzlies to start the season before beating the Cavs and Mavs to get back on track. Their most recent game was a low-scoring 97-85 loss at home against the Bulls. Atlanta is led in scoring by third-year forward, Taurean Prince (20.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.3 apg). Rookie Trae Young has seen mixed results to start his NBA career, averaging 19.8 points, but shooting under 40 percent overall and 32.4 percent from beyond the arc. His best game came on October 21 against Cleveland -- a 35-point, 11-assist effort.
Tuesday @ Toronto (6-0): The Raptors will also be on the second game of a back-to-back when they host the Sixers. They'll play the also undefeated Bucks on Monday in Milwaukee before flying back to Toronto to host the Sixers on Tuesday night. If there were any doubts about Kawhi Leonard's fit in Toronto, those can be put to rest. After a drama-filled year in San Antonio last season, Leonard is off to a hot start this year. He leads the Raptors in scoring (26.6) and steals (1.6) while shooting an impressive 50 percent from the floor (20 FGA per game) and 45.5 percent from beyond the arc. Veteran point guard Kyle Lowry is averaging 19.8 points per game, right behind Leonard, and is shooting even better than Kawhi (.575 FG%, .528 3P%). Dario Saric will have his work cut out for him having to guard Serge Ibaka, who is averaging 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds going into play on Monday. The Raptors have beating the Cavs, Celtics, Wizards, Hornets, T'Wolves and Mavs to start 6-0.
Thursday vs. LA Clippers (4-2): The Sixers will welcome their first Western Conference opponent to Philadelphia on Thursday in the LA Clippers. After a season-opening loss to Denver, the Clippers earned wins in four of their next five against the Thunder, Rockets (2) and Wizards while falling 116-109 to the Pelicans. They are led by former Pistons forward, Tobias Harris, who was sent to LA in the trade that put Blake Griffin in Detroit last season. Harris is averaging 21.8 points and nine rebounds, shooting just under 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three-point range. The Clippers boast some nice depth as well with former Sixers guard Lou Williams coming off the bench in addition to Avery Bradley and Marcin Gortat. Oh, and the Clippers also have Boban Marjanovic, who Joel Embiid was amused by last season.
Saturday vs. Detroit (4-1): In one of the most gut-wrenching losses in the early-goings of the season for the Sixers, they will get an opportunity to avenge their defeat on their home court against Blake Griffin and the Pistons on Saturday. After a JJ Redick four-point play that looked to be the dagger, a Sixers defensive miscommunication led to Blake Griffin finding an open lane to the basket for a layup and-1 to propel Detroit to victory. Griffin scored 50 against the Sixers that night, so there attention will be on him without question when the Pistons come to town. Detroit started the season 4-0 with wins against the Nets, Bulls, 76ers and Cavs before suffering their first defeat of the season in a 109-89 loss to the Celtics. They play the Celtics on Tuesday and Brooklyn on Wednesday before coming to Philadelphia on Saturday.
Sunday @ Brooklyn (2-4): The Sixers will get their first look at their Atlantic Division foes from Brooklyn on Sunday. The Nets lost to Detroit to open the season, beat the Knicks, lost to Indiana, beat Cleveland and has lost two in a row to New Orleans and Golden State. Their two losses to NOLA and GS were each by less than six points, so the Nets are keeping themselves in games against good teams. Brooklyn is led by guards Caris LeVert (21.3 ppg, .516 FG%) and D'Angelo Russell (17.0 ppg, .444 FG%, .486 3P%).
Thoughts: The Sixers face some tough tests this week against the Raptors, Clippers and Pistons. They should beat both Atlanta and Brooklyn, but we've seen that the Sixers like to make things hard on themselves early in the season. As for the games against Toronto, LA and Detroit, you hope they can take two out of three and post a 4-1 record during this stretch, but 3-2 seems like a more likely scenario. Hopefully a week from today, we're not talking about a 1-4 or 2-3 week.