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Sixers tabbed for 4 national television games in NBA's limited 2018-19 schedule release

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USA Today/AP Images/NBCSP

Sixers tabbed for 4 national television games in NBA's limited 2018-19 schedule release

The Sixers better get ready for their closeup.

The NBA announced a limited release of the upcoming 2018-19 schedule on Wednesday and the Sixers will be featured in four national television games for their season opener, home opener, Christmas Day and Martin Luther King Day.

The team won’t have to wait long to see its top rival as the Sixers will travel to face the Boston Celtics in a season-opening matchup on Oct. 16 (8 p.m./TNT). The Sixers clashed with the Celtics 11 times last season between the preseason, regular season and postseason and walked away with just two wins.

The Sixers will get back to business in front of fans at the Wells Fargo Center when they host the Chicago Bulls in their home opener on Oct. 18 (8 p.m./TNT). The Sixers haven’t won a home opener since the 2013-14 season, Brett Brown’s first campaign as head coach.

The Sixers are also part of the league’s prized Christmas Day lineup for the second consecutive season. In their first appearance on the holiday in 17 years a season ago, they were able to notch a 105-98 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden to snap a five-game skid. They'll take on the Celtics again in Boston, at 5:30 p.m. on ABC.

Martin Luther King Day has become a major event for the NBA as the league uses its platform to continue spreading the message of the civil rights pioneer. The Sixers will host the Houston Rockets on Jan. 21 in an MLK Day tilt (8 p.m./TNT). The team has won two straight games on the holiday, including a 117-111 home victory over the Toronto Raptors last season.

Those matchups should only be the beginning of a large amount of national television appearances for the Sixers. In the 2017-18 regular season, the team played in 15 nationally televised games.

Fresh off a 52-win season and a first-round playoff series victory, expect to see plenty more of the Sixers in primetime during 2018-19.

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

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

The Sixers (28-16) are looking for their second straight road win in Brooklyn against the Nets (18-23) on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Joel Embiid will miss his seventh straight game as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn ligament on the ring finger of his left hand. Al Horford is also listed as questionable (sprained left hand), possibly leaving the Sixers in a tough spot at center.

The Nets are also banged up at the five as DeAndre Jordan (dislocated right middle finger) is out. They’ll also be without former Sixer Wilson Chandler (left hamstring tightness).

Here are the essentials:

When: 3 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

Hurting at the five

The Sixers have gone 4-2 since Embiid went down. Though Horford’s play has been up-and-down, he’s a big part of the reason why. If he misses Monday’s game, Brett Brown will be in a difficult spot.

Two-way player Norvel Pelle is coming dangerously close to his 45 NBA days running out. When that happens, the Sixers will either have to offer him a full NBA deal or Pelle will be able to sign with another team. The plan is for him to be active today, but that plan could change.

The other main option is veteran Kyle O’Quinn, who saw his first action of 2020 against the Bulls Friday. Jonah Bolden is with the team in Brooklyn. In a pinch, they could have him dress.

Road woes over?

The Sixers barely snapped their six-game road losing streak at Madison Square Garden Saturday night in a 90-87 win over the Knicks. Yes, it was against a bad team, but it has to help their psyche just to put one in the win column away from the Wells Fargo Center. 

They’re playing a dangerous Brooklyn team. The Nets have lost three straight, but those games were to the red-hot Jazz, the Sixers and the NBA-best Bucks. Kyrie Irving came out humming after returning from his injury, but has struggled in the last two.

Unlike last season, the Sixers are well-equipped to handle the likes of Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. We saw what Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson and Matisse Thybulle were able to do to that trio last week in Philly. This should be a good one.

MLK Day

The slate of NBA games on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day has become a tradition. It’s one that players around the league don’t take lightly.

Tobias Harris addressed the Wells Fargo Center crowd before the Sixers’ last home game before MLK Day. Harris spoke about King’s message of love and equality.

“Martin Luther King stood for equality. He stood for love. Amongst everybody, all the different individuals of life, to be able to walk out and embrace each other and cherish everything that we do on a daily basis. In our world, what he and his message brought to everybody, is meant for now more than ever. On behalf of myself, the NBA, the organization and my teammates, we want to thank you guys for being here tonight and to also celebrate and cherish the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."

Harris was excellent that night, scoring 11 of his game-high 34 points in the fourth quarter to help seal the win.

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2019-20 NBA power rankings: Taking stock heading into the second half of the regular season

2019-20 NBA power rankings: Taking stock heading into the second half of the regular season

With the trade deadline a little over two weeks away, every team in the NBA has played at least 41 games.

Let’s take stock as the second half of the regular season begins: 

The top 10

It took the second triple-double of Markelle Fultz’s career Wednesday to snap the Lakers’ nine-game winning streak. 

Jimmy Butler has gotten to the free throw line in every game he’s played besides one this season and is third in the NBA in free throw attempts per game (9.3).

Mike Conley returned from a hamstring injury Saturday for Utah, and the Jazz have won 16 of 18.

The Rockets have lost three straight and the Mavs have won four straight, but Dallas has a difficult upcoming schedule with the Clippers and Jazz on tap this week. 

Ben Simmons has been stellar in just about every way besides fourth-quarter scoring for the Sixers in Joel Embiid’s absence and is averaging 21.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists over his last four games. 

Though Marcus Smart set a franchise record with 11 threes and scored a career-high 37 points in Saturday’s defeat to the Suns, Boston has lost three in a row. 

1. Milwaukee Bucks (38-6) 
2. Los Angeles Lakers (34-8)
3. Los Angeles Clippers (30-13)
4. Denver Nuggets (29-13) 
5. Miami Heat (29-13) 
6. Utah Jazz (29-13) 
7. Dallas Mavericks (27-15) 
8. Houston Rockets (26-15)
9. Sixers (28-16) 
10. Boston Celtics (27-14)

The middle 10

The Raptors shot over 50 percent from the floor in every game this week and could easily be higher in our rankings — it’s tightly bunched in the six through 12 range. 

Memphis has seven straight wins. Ja Morant is mesmerizing, and both he and Jaren Jackson Jr. are shooting over 40 percent on threes. 

Kyrie Irving talked Wednesday at Wells Fargo Center about the Nets requiring “one or two more pieces,” then reached out to teammates to clarify his comments.

Zion Williamson is expected to debut Wednesday vs. the Spurs, exciting news if you enjoy basketball. 

After their trade with the Kings, Portland got 34 points from Damian Lillard and a career-high 30 from flu-stricken Gary Trent Jr., and they still lost by 13 to Oklahoma City.

11. Toronto Raptors (28-14)
12. Indiana Pacers (28-15) 
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-19) 
14. Memphis Grizzlies (20-22)
15. Brooklyn Nets (18-23) 
16. San Antonio Spurs (18-23) 
17. Orlando Magic (20-23)
18. Phoenix Suns (18-24) 
19. New Orleans Pelicans (16-27) 
20. Portland Trail Blazers (18-26)

The bottom 10 

The Bulls’ last win over a team currently in playoff position was on Dec. 14, but Zach LaVine is putting up big numbers, including 42 points Saturday vs. Cleveland, and trying to push for a home All-Star appearance

Sekou Doumbouya, the league’s youngest player, scored 24 points on 10 of 13 shooting Wednesday night at TD Garden. 

It appears that a clear bottom four has separated from the pack. Stephen Curry is targeting a March 1 return, according to The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson. 

21. Chicago Bulls (16-28)
22. Sacramento Kings (15-27) 
23. Detroit Pistons (16-27)
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-27) 
25. Charlotte Hornets (15-29)
26. Washington Wizards (13-28)
27. Cleveland Cavaliers (12-31)
28. New York Knicks (11-32)
29. Golden State Warriors (10-34)
30. Atlanta Hawks (10-33) 



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