Anthony Davis

Give and Go: How dangerous is Sixers' 3-game road trip?

USA Today Images

Give and Go: How dangerous is Sixers' 3-game road trip?

Each week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Marshall Harris and producer/reporter Matt Haughton.

In this edition, we examine the Sixers’ upcoming three-game road trip to Cleveland, New Orleans and Minnesota.

With a 13-11 record, including back-to-back home losses to the Suns and Lakers, all of a sudden the three-game road trip through Cleveland, New Orleans and Minnesota looks much more daunting. I have the Sixers going 2-1 on the trip. However, things could easily go badly and the Sixers could have a five-game skid on their hands.

Cleveland is a loss. Sometimes you just have to accept the reality that regardless of how a team performs, it's not taking down LeBron James and the Cavs without its best player. With Joel Embiid sitting out Saturday (see story), pulling off the upset goes from unlikely to nearly impossible. James is coming off a loss to Victor Oladipo and the Pacers. They're not trying to lose two in a row.

That brings us to Sunday and a meeting with DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. Look, A.D. is just returning from a groin injury, which caused him to miss three games before Friday's loss to the Kings. This should be a fun game with Embiid back and picking up where he left off with last season's butt-slapping love fest with Boogie. I've got the Sixers winning a close one, thanks in no small part to superior guard play.

That brings us to Tuesday's matchup with Minnesota. It may very well be the most difficult because of the addition of Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague to an already formidable duo of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. This is where I think Embiid will make his mark on the defensive end of the court. Want to be Defensive Player of the Year? Then show it with strong back-to-back interior displays against the Pelicans and Wolves.

If the Sixers can shoot closer to their averages from the perimeter on this trip than they did in the last two games of their homestand, winning two of three shouldn't be a problem. But things could go the wrong way in a hurry if the threes, in particular, don't get back to falling regularly.

Things change fast in the NBA. To start this week, the Sixers were sitting in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference and looked poised to climb even higher with some winnable games on the slate.

A pair of ugly losses later, and now they are down in the eighth seed and could possibly fall out of extremely early playoff positioning with a rough road trip.

Speaking of the trip, I agree with Marshall that it opens with a loss. Even with Embiid, it was always going to be a difficult task to come out of Cleveland on the winning end. Throw in the center’s absence, the fact that the Cavs are upset about the end of their recent streak and James’ desire to remind the NBA world that Ben Simmons isn’t anywhere near his level yet, and you can pencil in a defeat.

Things should get good Sunday. Embiid will return to find himself locked in a battle of the bigs against Cousins and Davis. The Sixers can only hope Richaun Holmes can duplicate his recent effort against the Lakers in New Orleans. Either way, the Sixers’ advantage in perimeter play should be enough to escape with a victory.

That leaves Tuesday’s clash with the Timberwolves. It should be another good one with Embiid and Towns locking horns down low while Robert Covington and Wiggins face off on the wing. However, Butler will make the difference for the T-Wolves. He has finally stopped trying to fit in with his new team and has taken over. Look no further than his averages of 26.0 points (50.7 percent shooting), 6.0 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 steals nightly averages so far in December.

A loss to the Timberwolves would put the Sixers at 1-2 on the trip and losers of four out of their last five games. That’s a stretch the young team would hope to avoid in the jumbled Eastern Conference standings.

Joel Embiid to sit out front end of back-to-back set against Cavaliers

USA Today Images

Joel Embiid to sit out front end of back-to-back set against Cavaliers

CLEVELAND — Joel Embiid continues to have a restriction on back-to-back games.

He will not play on Saturday in Cleveland against the Cavaliers (load management) but will be available for Sunday's matchup against the Pelicans in New Orleans. Embiid has not been cleared for consecutive games yet. 

Of the two matchups, the Sixers need all the bigs they can have against the Pelicans. At the time of this report, Anthony Davis was eyeing a return from a left adductor strain. 

Yes, a team wants its best players on the floor against LeBron James, but a matchup against Davis and DeMarcus Cousins calls for Embiid. Davis averaged 28.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in two games against the Sixers last season (1-1), prior to the Pelicans acquiring Cousins from the Kings. 

Either way, Cousins is a handful on his own. He scored 30 points last season with Embiid on the court and then dropped 46 when Embiid was sidelined (left knee).

The Sixers could counter the Pelicans' frontcourt with a big duo of their own. They found success pairing Embiid and Richaun Holmes in their loss to the Lakers Thursday night. Holmes scored 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter (see story). The two complemented one another with Embiid's ability to spread the floor and Holmes' athleticism to get to the rim. 

Sunday's game against All-Star bigs will be a preparation for Tuesday's faceoff with Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves in Minnesota. 

Trevor Booker: 'I'm pretty much a bigger T.J. McConnell'

USA Today Images/Christina Betz

Trevor Booker: 'I'm pretty much a bigger T.J. McConnell'

Five months ago, Trevor Booker had no idea he'd soon be a Sixer.

So when he said then that he'd take Joel Embiid over Anthony Davis, it was without bias.

"As for the big fella, Joel Embiid, man ... if he can stay healthy, he's going to be a problem," Booker told HoopsHype's Alex Kennedy back in July.

"I was debating someone last week — I can't remember who it was — and they asked who I'd rather have: Anthony Davis or Joel Embiid? I took Embiid. Anthony Davis is a heck of a player, but man, Embiid? Wow. He's going to be something special if he can stay healthy."

And yet that was only the second-best quote lately about the Sixers from Booker, who was acquired from Brooklyn Thursday for Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas and a second-round pick. In another HoopsHype interview Friday, Booker compared himself to a current beloved Sixer.

"I'm a passionate player. I'm a guy that's going to be aggressive, provide energy and be a pest on defense," Booker said. "I'm pretty much a bigger T.J. McConnell."

For more on Booker, including how he heard about the trade, what he thinks of Ben Simmons and when he'll join the Sixers, check out the full interview over at HoopsHype.