76ers

Sixers at Bulls: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Bulls: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The Sixers (49-30) are back in action against the Chicago Bulls (22-57) for the first game of their final road trip of the regular season. Jimmy Butler (back tightness) is out while Joel Embiid (left knee soreness) remains a game-time decision. The Bulls have won just four of their past 16 games, and one of those wins was their last matchup against the Sixers, on March 6.

Here are the essentials for tonight's game:

When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 p.m.
Where: United Center 
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus 
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

Here are three storylines to watch: 

Greg Monroe set to debut 

Whether or not Embiid plays tonight, head coach Brett Brown says he intends to give Monroe time. The Sixers signed the nine-year veteran center, after waiving Justin Patton, with the intention of adding a veteran presence come playoff time. Many have questioned what adding another center could provide, and tonight we’ll get our first look at Monroe.

Zhaire Smith steps into the spotlight

With the news that James Ennis III will be sidelined for at least two weeks with a quad contusion, Brown’s already thin bench has become even thinner. In Thursday night’s loss to Milwaukee, rookie Zhaire Smith played over 17 minutes, finishing with six points and three rebounds (which is absolutely bonkers if you know Smith’s story). With Shake Milton ineligible for the playoffs (two-way contract) and Jonathon Simmons seemingly out of the rotation (Brown has opted to go with both Milton and Smith over Simmons as of late), Smith could actually be called upon in the postseason. Smith won’t be able to make up a season’s worth of experience in a few games, but the more time he gets, the better.

Jonah Bolden's role 

As the season winds down, Brown is still figuring out the best way to utilize Jonah Bolden — and keep him out of foul trouble. Expect for Bolden to continue to get opportunities at the four tonight, which means Tobias Harris slide to a three in certain rotations. 

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Sixers at Thunder: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Thunder: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

After falling apart in the fourth quarter Wednesday night for the second time in their past four games, the 7-4 Sixers are back in action Friday.

Here are the essentials for tonight’s game against the 4-7 Oklahoma City Thunder:

When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

‘It’s a little bit of everything’

After starting 5-0, the Sixers have lost four of their last six games. The two wins, at home against Charlotte and Cleveland, weren’t easy, either.

What’s gone wrong, outside of the obvious issues with shooting and turnovers, and the minimal time the regular starters have played together?

“It's a little bit of everything,” Ben Simmons told reporters Wednesday night. “There's some things that we definitely need to touch up that I'm sure we'll go back to the film and watch. But it's a long season.”

This is a winnable game for the Sixers, but it’s another one they could lose if they play a couple of rungs below their top level. Oklahoma City is 4-3 at home and has a fascinating backcourt of 34-year-old Chris Paul and 21-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, one of the players shipped to the Thunder in the Paul George trade. Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 20.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists in his second NBA season. 

Harris’ nasty slump 

Tobias Harris is in a terrible slump, having missed his last 23 three-point attempts. He’s now shooting 20.4 percent from three-point range this season, second-worst among all players with at least 40 long range attempts. 

Brett Brown wants Harris to shoot himself out of it (see story).

The situation is starting to resemble that of a No. 3 hitter who hasn’t picked up a hit in a week and desperately wants to just find a hole in the defense and feel what it’s like to stand on base again after making solid contact. Harris will have another chance to break out of it in Oklahoma City.

Some positive recent history 

The Sixers won the last time they were in Oklahoma City, snapping a 19-game losing streak against the Thunder on Feb. 28.

Joel Embiid was out that night, but he’s expected to return tonight after sitting Wednesday (injury management/left knee soreness). Jonah Bolden, who actually started vs. the Thunder back in February and had 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting in the Sixers’ win, is on assignment with the Delaware Blue Coats.

Harris scored 32 points in that February game, his high as a Sixer. 



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How Ben Simmons blocks out distractions to get to better mental state

How Ben Simmons blocks out distractions to get to better mental state

It seems like nowadays everyone is glued to their phone screens. It can consume your time and social media can be a major distraction.

That’s what Ben Simmons came to realize over the last year. 

“I’ll be on my phone when I need to, but if I’m with my family or friends, I’m typically not on it all the time,” Simmons said. “It’s a distraction. Phones are great but they’re also sometimes on the bad side depending on what you’re look at, whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, whatever people are saying. You got to be present, be in the moment.”

There is plenty of negativity on social media — especially for a young, All-Star player like Simmons.

What he’s found is that if he doesn’t focus on what other people are saying about him, it puts him in a better mental state ahead of games.

“Staying off your phone before games, locking in, not letting others determine how you feel mentally,” Simmons said. “Lesser distractions for me, the better I play, which I love. I love going into a game not having any worries besides my teammates or winning a game.”

In an open interview, which you can watch above, Simmons discussed how his focus has changed and how he’s not letting outside voices affect his preparation or play on the court.

NBC Sports Regional Networks has launched a multi-platform campaign on mental health and men's health, HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports, for the month of November. You can find more information about the initiative here.

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