The Joel Embiid-less Sixers (25-14) are in Dallas to take on Luka Doncic and the Mavericks (23-15) Friday night.
Embiid, who had successful surgery Friday to repair a torn radial collateral ligament of the fourth metacarpal on his left hand, will miss his second straight game. He'll be re-evaluated in 1-2 weeks, according to the team. The Mavs will be without Kristaps Porzingis (right knee soreness).
Here are the essentials:
When: 8:30 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 8 p.m.
Where: American Airlines Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
Ben vs. Luka
This game loses a bit of luster with Embiid and Porzingis out and with Dallas coming off a beatdown from the Lakers Friday night, but this matchup should be fun.
Doncic has been one of the top players in the league and could get serious MVP consideration at just 20 years old. He’s third in the NBA in both scoring (29.4 points) and assists (8.9). He’s also grabbing 9.7 rebounds a game and leads the NBA with 11 triple-doubles.
Ben Simmons has played at a ridiculous level defensively this season. He leads the league in steals, is first in defensive loose balls recovered per game, fifth in defensive win shares and fifth in deflections per game. The players Simmons has guarded most by minutes this season are Jimmy Butler, Jayson Tatum, Bradley Beal, Pascal Siakam and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. They’ve shot a combined 15 of 59 when guarded by Simmons. He also held James Harden to 3 of 9 on a night when the former MVP went for 44 points.
Doncic missed the Mavericks’ win in Philadelphia so we were deprived of this matchup. Let's hope we see a lot of it tonight.
In the zone?
Remember when the Sixers were dealing with issues with the zone and it was all anyone talked about? Welp, get ready for more zone tonight!
With Embiid out, maybe head coach Rick Carlisle won’t be as quick to deploy it, but he’s one of the few head coaches that will use the zone on occasion. The Sixers did improve against zone the more they saw of it, but their 117-98 loss to the Mavs was an ugly one. If Dallas goes to it, Brett Brown could go to a lineup with Simmons as a small-ball five surrounded by shooters — especially since Carlisle doesn't really use a true center outside of former Sixer Boban Marjanovic, who's averaging just 9.5 minutes a game.
It’s something worth keeping an eye on.
Struggles on the road
The Sixers are coming off a big win without Embiid against the Celtics Thursday, pushing their record at the Wells Fargo Center to 18-2. Now, they need to find a way to bring that same effort on the road where they’re just 7-12.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks have had nearly opposite splits, boasting a 12-5 record on the road and going just 11-10 at home.
Something will have to give Saturday night.
Like Boston was Thursday, Dallas is in the second game of a back-to-back. If the Mavs are hot early like the Celtics were, it’ll be important for the Sixers to weather the storm and chip away.
“We knew coming in [the Celtics] played [the night before],” Tobias Harris said, “so we knew a lot of the shots they were taking in the first half and making, it was going to come to a point where they were going to go through a little stretch where they missed a few of those. That’s when we really said we have to be able to get out in transition and run, and be efficient when we were in transition.”
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