Updated: 5:18 p.m.
T.J. McConnell returns to the Wells Fargo Center as the Sixers (13-6) host the Pacers (12-6) Saturday night.
Josh Richardson (right hamstring tightness) is out, Kyle O’Quinn (left calf strain) is questionable and Al Horford (rest) will return to the lineup. Victor Oladipo remains out as he rehabs from right knee surgery while former Process era Sixer Jakarr Sampson will also miss tonight’s game with lower back tightness.
Here are the essentials for tonight’s game:
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:
Back-to-back for Jo
Joel Embiid will play his second straight back-to-back after remarking that load management is “BS” after the team’s win over San Antonio last Friday. Embiid mentioned earlier this season that the goal was to have him play fewer back-to-backs. If you’ll recall, Embiid played in 54 of the first 58 games last season and then battled knee tendinitis throughout the second half and into the playoffs.
It’s a fine line the Sixers are walking. Embiid has said when he doesn’t play for a while, his conditioning goes quickly, and he struggles to find a rhythm. It certainly shows when Embiid is forced to miss a game or two.
With Richardson out, it will be another missed opportunity for the starting five to develop chemistry. They’ve been dominant for most of the season and have the best defensive rating in the NBA (minimum 100 minutes). The offensive chemistry is still a work in progress and Embiid is a huge part of that.
Indiana is also playing a back-to-back, coming off an overtime win over the Hawks Friday night.
The return of Timothy John
McConnell became a fan favorite in Philadelphia and it’s easy to see why. He was the underdog to top all underdogs. He came in as an undrafted free agent during the Process and earned a spot. As the roster improved and the team’s goals became larger, it always seemed like McConnell would be the odd man out. Yet, he always found a way to get himself minutes with his dogged play and fiery personality.
The Pacers gave McConnell a two-year, $7 million deal this offseason and the fifth-year point guard has produced. He’s continued his usually efficient ways, hitting 50.5 percent from the field and 88.9 percent from the line. He’s also averaging 7.1 points and 4.8 assists in just 17.8 minutes a game. Indiana is off to a good start and McConnell is a key contributor.
Don’t sleep on the Pacers
The Pacers are still without their best player in Oladipo and may not be in the same tier talent wise as the Sixers, but this is a damn good basketball team. They’re one of the few teams that will match the Sixers’ size in the frontcourt with the duo of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.
They also have Malcolm Brogdon, acquired in a sign-and-trade from the Bucks this offseason, playing at a borderline All-Star level. Newcomers T.J. Warren and Jeremy Lamb have added a scoring punch.
Nate McMillan’s team plays disciplined and tough. They’re sixth in the league in terms of turnover percentage and are right behind the Sixers at fourth in the NBA in defensive rating. This could be a grind-it-out type of game.
Bonus storyline: The Sixers will debut their 2019-20 City Edition jerseys Saturday night.
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