The Sixers (26-16) look to continue their home dominance when they take on the Bulls (15-27) Friday night.
The Sixers are still without Joel Embiid, who continues to progress after having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left ring finger.
The Bulls are banged up, with Otto Porter Jr. (left foot fracture), Wendell Carter Jr. (right ankle sprain) and Daniel Gafford (dislocated right thumb) all out. Chandler Hutchinson (right shoulder soreness) is questionable while Ryan Arcidiacono, Lauri Markkanen, Tomas Satoransky and Luke Kornet are listed as probable.
Here are the essentials:
When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
The half-court offense
There’s been plenty made about Ben Simmons’ unwillingness to shoot and how that’s affected the Sixers’ half-court offense (see film review).
Brett Brown has done well to put Simmons in positions to maximize his strengths, using him as a screener and roller with Josh Richardson. Simmons himself has done better in the last few games eating up the space opponents are giving and making plays at the rim. With the Bulls missing their top two shot blockers, this could be a big night for Simmons.
The pick-and-roll in general has become a bigger part of the Sixers’ offense recently. That’s largely due to Brown using the skills of Richardson and Tobias Harris in that action. We saw Harris seal the win over the Nets with an 11-point fourth quarter. A couple nights earlier in Indiana, we saw Richardson almost will the Sixers to a road win with 17 points in the fourth.
There’s still plenty to sort out and Embiid’s inevitable return will also complicate things, but the offense is showing encouraging signs.
Need more from the bench
While Matisse Thybulle has shown big-time flashes and Furkan Korkmaz’s shooting has made a huge difference in a couple wins, the Sixers are lacking consistency from their reserves.
Brown didn’t shy away from that fact after practice Thursday.
We're trying to establish a little bit more consistency from that area. And at times that you can't, you better have answers. And although we have the answers, not really anybody has just stamped their foot and said, 'This is mine.' And you hope over time, that happens. In the event that it doesn't, we're going to play this thing out and try to be wiser and smarter in the final third of the year as the run to the playoffs gets closer.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for veterans James Ennis and Mike Scott, who have had their struggles as of late.
Brown does seem keen on Thybulle being a rotational mainstay. The rookie got the start in the win over the Nets and did well, recording four blocks and two steals, but also played strong 1-on-1 defense. As he proved in the win over Brooklyn, he’s not just a “one-trick pony,” with the ability to guard different types of perimeter players.
Slowing down LaVine
The Bulls are off to a disappointing start this season. They’ve won two of their last three, but that’s coming off the heels of a six-game losing streak. Still, Chicago finds itself with a fighting chance for the East’s eighth seed halfway through the season. The play of Zach LaVine is a huge reason why.
LaVine is putting up All-Star caliber numbers, averaging 24.6 points a game. He’s shooting 40 percent on over eight attempts from a three a game — both would be career-high marks. He was also a nightmare for the Sixers last season. He averaged 34.5 points in the two games he played against them.
Thybulle has experience against LaVine. Both played high school basketball in Washington state. At that time, LaVine was a senior and one of the top high school players in the state. Thybulle was just a freshman.
His efforts that day could be the reason Thybulle ended up at the University of Washington.
“I ended up going to University of Washington like everyone knows, but that was the first time Coach Romar, who was the coach at the time, ever saw me,” Thybulle said. “I must have done something good because he kept his eye on me.”
LaVine, a serious All-Star candidate, and Thybulle, an impressive rookie, could square off again Friday.
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