Updated: 2:54 p.m.
The Sixers on Tuesday will face the only team yet to lose in the NBA’s “bubble,” and they’ll do so with a depleted roster.
Here are the essentials for the matchup between the 42-28 Sixers and 32-29 Suns:
When: 4:30 p.m. with Sixers Pregame Live at 4
Where: Visa Athletic Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
Playing it safe
Ben Simmons had successful surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee on Monday, Joel Embiid is out with the left ankle injury he sustained in the first quarter of Sunday’s game and Josh Richardson will rest. Tobias Harris (right ankle soreness) and Al Horford (left knee soreness) are out, as well, meaning the Sixers won’t have any player from their opening night starting lineup available.
Though the Sixers are just a half-game behind the No. 5 seed Pacers, a cautious approach is perfectly reasonable under these circumstances. While it seems Embiid’s injury is not severe — Brown said he expects him to play again before the postseason — the Sixers can’t afford more injuries to key players.
The hottest team in the NBA
Just like the Sixers’ last two opponents, the Suns are on the playoff bubble, no pun intended. Because of their impressive run so far at Disney World, Phoenix is a half-game behind current ninth seed Portland and a game back of the Grizzlies.
Their 6-0 record includes wins over the Mavs, Clippers and, most recently, the Thunder. Devin Booker, who scored 40 points on 15 for 19 shooting against the Sixers on Nov. 4, has averaged 30.3 points and 6.0 assists in Orlando. Since Richardson and Simmons are out, expect Matisse Thybulle to match up often with Booker.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Thybulle said Monday. “I’m lucky that I have a coach that trusts me to go out there and see what I can do. Like I said, it’s a huge challenge, I’m excited for it and we’ve got good guys that have my back and allow me to go out there and make some gambles and take some risks to try to make plays, and the whole time having my back to have me covered in case it doesn’t work out.”
Former Sixer connections on the Suns include head coach Monty Williams, previously an assistant under Brett Brown (as well as a player here in the 2002-03 season) and Dario Saric. Villanova product Mikal Bridges, technically a Sixer for about 20 minutes on draft night two years ago, starts for the Suns.
'Nobody's feeling sorry for us'
It matters less than Simmons and Embiid’s health in the big picture, but the Sixers’ effort to erase a 17-point deficit and nearly beat the Blazers on Sunday was commendable.
The Sixers have faced those kind of shorthanded situations on a somewhat regular basis this season, so perhaps they’re equipped to respond a bit better than most teams.
“Just keep going,” Mike Scott said. “It’s not the first time it’s happened to us since I’ve been here, so just keep going, next-man mentality. Hopefully, we’ll have everyone healthy by the playoffs. Obviously, prayers go out to Ben, hopefully he comes back strong and healthy first. But it’s next-man mentality. Nobody’s feeling sorry for us. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”
Scott and Glenn Robinson III are among the Sixers who will likely get a bump in minutes Tuesday.
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