Sixers' game vs. Spurs just got a whole lot tougher

Sixers' game vs. Spurs just got a whole lot tougher

CAMDEN, N.J. — It's unlikely that Brett Brown will have his biggest weapon Wednesday night against his old team.

After spraining his right hand in a collision with Devin Booker and subsequent fall Sunday night, Embiid is listed as doubtful against the Spurs.

Though X-rays Sunday confirmed his hand isn't broken, Embiid said the injury seriously affected his play.

"It was numb but I'm a warrior," Embiid said after the game. "I want to push through stuff and I want to play. I wanted to be on the court to win the game and that's what we did."

At Tuesday's practice, Sixers coach Brett Brown detailed how the injury is continuing to bother Embiid.

"It was a legitimate scare, a legitimate fall," Brown said. "If you saw the palm of his hand, you'd see the bruising and the swelling and the discoloring. And if it was his non-shooting hand, you might feel more confident. But we'll all learn more tomorrow."

At the conclusion of practice, a trainer tended to Embiid's hand. Based on the team's history of caution with Embiid, you would think his hand would have to dramatically improve for him to play Wednesday night. The Sixers are 2-7 on the season without him, though they did beat the Nuggets, 107-102, on Saturday when he rested.

If Embiid doesn't play Wednesday, Amir Johnson will likely start at center and Richaun Holmes will return to the rotation. In 19 valuable minutes off the bench Saturday, Holmes had 14 points, three rebounds and three assists. Yet with Embiid back in the lineup Sunday against Phoenix, he never left the bench.

The Sixers may not be the only ones without their biggest star for Wednesday's matchup. San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard, who missed the team's first 27 games with a right quad injury, may not play on the second night of a back-to-back set after he was on the court for 31 minutes in the Spurs' 100-91 win over the Knicks on Tuesday.

Sixers at Hornets: 3 storylines to watch as big 3 takes on Kemba Walker

Sixers at Hornets: 3 storylines to watch as big 3 takes on Kemba Walker

After an impressive home debut in the Sixers' win Friday over the Jazz, Jimmy Butler and company are back in action Saturday against Kemba Walker and the Hornets for the third time this season (see essentials)

The Sixers have taken the first two matchups, which have both come down to the final minutes.

Here are three storylines to watch for tonight's game:

Who shines in the fourth?

We’ve got three of the top fourth-quarter scorers this season all on the floor tonight in Butler (second), Walker (fourth) and Joel Embiid (sixth), and the last time these two teams met, they needed more than 48 minutes (Sixers won, 133-132, in overtime).

It wouldn’t surprise me if we get another close game down the stretch, but who will be the one to take over?

Jimmy Butler vs. Kemba Walker

Last night, when guarded by Butler, Donovan Mitchell was held to just 11 points on 5 for 20 shooting and went 0 for 6 from three-point range. Furthering that point, not one Jazz player scored a three-pointer if Butler was guarding him.

Walker is second only to Stephen Curry in three-pointers made this season. Defending the three is going to be a big key tonight, and it’ll be fun to watch Butler defensively on Walker.

Ben Simmons ... where art thou?

At times, Ben Simmons has looked a bit out of sorts, and he admitted after Friday’s game that having so many different roles to start this season has been mentally frustrating. Simmons also said that he thinks the Sixers are at a place now with Butler that he knows what the coaching staff needs from him. Brown said what they need from him is to be a point guard and "connect the dots." 

Will Simmons connect those dots tonight?

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Sixers at Hornets: Live stream, storylines, game time, more

Sixers at Hornets: Live stream, storylines, game time, more

Jimmy Butler sure made his presence felt in his home debut Friday night.

Now the Sixers are faced with a back-to-back situation as they head to Charlotte to take on the Hornets Saturday.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.

• How could we start this about anything other than Butler? He was fantastic in his first home game as a Sixer, giving the raucous crowd at Wells Fargo Center plenty to cheer about. It was a playoff-like atmosphere in last night’s win over the Jazz (see observations).

We’re still in the honeymoon phase but Butler is showing he fits on and off the court so far. He even loves the victory music (see story).

• Joel Embiid had a weird night last night. He got himself into foul trouble and missed virtually the entire third quarter but came up huge in the fourth. He scored 13 of his 23 points in the final period.

He also revealed that he played with his hand hurting early in the first quarter. The weird part is that Embiid revealed it’s the same issue he’s had dating back to December of last year during a road game in Phoenix. He was quick to say, “I’m playing” when asked about his status vs. the Hornets.

His right hand did appear swollen after the game, but he looked fine during his big fourth quarter. This will just be something to keep an eye on if Embiid starts favoring his shooting hand.

• Brett Brown said after the game last night that he felt Ben Simmons had the “biggest adjustment” to make with Butler in the fold (see story). Simmons has been fairly quiet in the two games since Butler got here. Though he appeared more aggressive last night, he’s averaging just 9.5 points and has taken just 14 shots in the last two contests combined.

Part of this is by design. Brown said that Simmons has to now evolve into a true point guard, where before Butler’s arrival he was counted on to provide scoring as well as facilitating. Ultimately this could be the best thing for Simmons as there will be less pressure on him to shoot. At the same time, you don’t want him to lose his aggressiveness offensively.

• After watching Donovan Mitchell jack up a ton of shots Friday, the Sixers will be tasked with containing Kemba Walker. As we’ve seen in the first two matchups against the Hornets, Walker has no conscience. He’s really become one of the elite scorers in the league.

Walker struggled early in Charlotte’s OT loss at the Wells Fargo Center last week, but did have a monster fourth quarter. The Sixers also didn’t have Butler in that one, who held Mitchell to 13 of 35 and no assists last night. 

While the Sixers’ have installed a more switch-heavy scheme this season, it was interesting after the game to hear Brown say Butler wanted to stay with Mitchell and that the coaching staff let him. I’d imagine it’ll be the same deal with Walker tonight. Butler’s elite on-the-ball defense has been evident already.

Here are the essentials for tonight’s game.

When: 7 p.m. EST 
Where: Spectrum Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia (Pregame Live starts at 6:30 p.m. EST)
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams by NBC Sports app

Jonah Bolden, F, 6-10, 220, No. 43 
Jimmy Butler, F, 6-8, 236, No. 23 
Wilson Chandler, F, 6-9/225, No. 22 
Joel Embiid, C, 7-0/260, No. 21 
Markelle Fultz, G, 6-4/200, No. 20 
* Demetrius Jackson, G, 6-1/200, No. 11 
Amir Johnson, F/C, 6-9/240, No. 5 
Furkan Korkmaz, G/F, 6-7/185, No. 30 
T.J. McConnell, G, 6-2/190, No. 12 
* Shake Milton, G, 6-6/205, No. 18 
Mike Muscala, F/C, 6-11/240, No. 31 
JJ Redick, G 6-4/195, No. 17 13
Landry Shamet, G, 6-5/190, No. 23
Ben Simmons, G/F, 6-10/230, No. 25 
Zhaire Smith, G, 6-4/200, No. 8
Justin Patton, C, 6-11/229, No. 0

* Two-way player

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