76ers

Deck stacked against Sixers tonight in Boston

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USA Today Images

Deck stacked against Sixers tonight in Boston

After earning a strange, roundabout victory at home Wednesday night over the Wizards, the Sixers are in Boston tonight and they're undermanned.

Joel Embiid will sit in the second game of a back-to-back. This is only the Sixers' second back-to-back set of the season — the NBA lengthened the schedule this year to reduce back-to-backs and situations where teams played four games in five nights.

The last time the Sixers sat Embiid as part of a back-to-back, they were destroyed in Toronto 128-94, their largest loss of the season.

In addition to missing Embiid, the Sixers will also be without backup point guard T.J. McConnell, who won't play after suffering a left shoulder contusion Wednesday night.

Brett Brown said after the Wizards game that in a "twisted way," he's looking forward to seeing how an undermanned Sixers team measures up against the 18-4 Celtics.

"We'll go to Boston without Jo and T.J. and we'll fight," he said.

McConnell had been rolling before getting hurt against the Wizards, averaging 11.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists over his last four games while shooting 61 percent from the field and 3 for 4 from three.

With McConnell out, it would ordinarily be expected for floor general Ben Simmons to play additional minutes. But keep in mind that Simmons played a career-high 41 minutes last night and was questionable heading into that game with a sprained ankle.

Jerryd Bayless (14 points, four assists in 26 minutes vs. Washington) should see an uptick in playing time.

The last time the Sixers played the Celtics — a 102-92 loss on Oct. 20 — Embiid had 11 points and 14 rebounds but shot just 4 of 16 from the field and 0 for 6 from three. The Sixers shot just 38 percent that night against Boston's top-rated defense. (The Celtics have a defensive rating of 98.3, which is a full point better than the next-best team, the Blazers.)

It could still be a game, though, even with Embiid and McConnell out. The Celtics own the NBA's best record but have lost two of their last four games. As of Wednesday morning, the Celtics were favored by nine points. Boston hasn't played since losing to Detroit at home on Monday.

Sixers hope they have Embiid tonight vs. reigning MVP

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AP Images

Sixers hope they have Embiid tonight vs. reigning MVP

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is listed as questionable while the Sixers need all hands on deck to defend Russell Westbrook.

The big man's status tonight is uncertain because of back tightness. Embiid missed Sunday's game against the Pelicans with the issue but played a career-high 39 minutes on Tuesday in the Sixers' overtime win against the Timberwolves. 

Embiid was on the court after shootaround draining threes barefoot. He commonly puts up shots without shoes.

The Sixers will require a total team effort against Westbrook. They will have their top perimeter defender Robert Covington back in the lineup after he missed the last two games with a lower back contusion.

Brett Brown will try different looks on Westbrook, but one thing is already known: There's no clear-cut formula to contain the reigning MVP. 

"Russell Westbrook demands a team to guard him," Brett Brown said Thursday. "He comes at you with such cocky aggression. How about the athlete that we're seeing and the mentality of that athlete? It is bizarre to me. That is a fierce, competitive person that just doesn't seem to get tired ... He's amazing to me. He really is amazing to me." 

Westbrook is averaging 22.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 9.9 assists per game this season. All those stats don't really project much considering he's capable of going off for 30, 40 points any given night. He scored 30-plus points in three of his last five games. 

Even though the Thunder are below .500 (13-14), the Sixers are not ignoring the offseason additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Veteran scorers cannot be overlooked, regardless of a team's record heading into the game. 

"[Westbrook] is a special player in our league and he's going to be tough to contain one-on-one so it's going to be a group effort tonight," T.J. McConnell said. "Even with the other two, Carmelo and Paul George, it takes a team and following your principles and playing hard. That's all you can really do." 

• The Sixers will wear their red Statement Edition uniforms tonight for the first time. The jerseys were designed to reflect the history of the franchise and the city of Philadelphia. "Sixers" is written in cursive for the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

• The Sixers are unveiling a sculpture of Maurice Cheeks in front of their training complex in Camden. Cheeks is now an assistant coach for the Thunder. The point guard was a member of the 1983 championship team and earned four All-Star selections with the Sixers. Cheeks' sculpture will join those of Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer and Billy Cunningham already on "76ers Legends Walk."

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

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Photo courtesy of Sixers' Twitter account

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

Four families gathered in a roped-off waiting area adorned with Sixers decor inside of a Philadelphia Target store. They were told they were getting a surprise Thursday evening, but they didn't know who or what until a car pulled up outside ... and Ben Simmons walked through the door.

Simmons gave each family a $1,000 shopping spree right then and there. The room erupted in cheer.

"Beautiful," a mother exclaimed at the news. One child put his head in his hands in disbelief when he saw Simmons. Another said, "This is the best day ever."

"It's one of those things I always wanted to do growing up," Simmons, who came up with the idea for the shopping trip on his own, said. "It's the perfect time, season of giving. It just means a lot for me to be able to do this for some families."

The towering 6-foot-10 point guard walked through the store on Monument Road with each family and helped them choose their gifts along the way. 

They headed straight to the toy section, where the children piled in Legos, dolls and anything else that grabbed their attention. Then it was on to electronics. One child filled his cart with video games and a gaming system. Another family selected a television and soundbar. 

Shopping carts accumulated quickly as the kids ran in and out of aisles with bright smiles on their faces.

"Seeing them pick out what they want, not having to worry about it, I think that was the biggest thing," Simmons said. "It was a great time. I had a lot of fun, can't wait to do it next year."

The recipients were selected through Unity in the Community, a nonprofit organization based in South Philadelphia. Each had been through tough times in the past year and this trip helped to put the happy in their holidays.

"They can enjoy it now," Simmons said. "It's great for them to have no worries, especially on Christmas."