Joel Embiid returned to the lineup and the Sixers won a huge game against the Pacers Sunday.
Now in the driver’s seat for the Eastern Conference’s third seed, the team has to take care of business against the lowly Cavaliers with two difficult matchups coming this weekend.
Let’s take a look at the Sixers’ week ahead.
Butler’s rest day and who could be next
Jimmy Butler will be out for tomorrow’s game against the Cavs for a planned rest day. Brett Brown said after practice Monday that Butler’s absence is not related to the “discomfort” he felt in his foot at the end of the win vs. Indiana.
Giving Butler off Tuesday gives the veteran swingman extra time. With the team not playing again until Friday against the Kings, Butler will get four days of rest. The Sixers shouldn’t have an issue beating Cleveland without Butler.
Butler is 29 and has logged a lot of minutes. Brown has done a good job with Butler, who is averaging 33.1 minutes with the Sixers, his lowest mark since 2012-13.
Embiid also mentioned Sunday that he’s likely going to sit out at least one more game before the playoffs start. It’s all about delivering healthy players to the postseason.
With that in mind, who could be next the next to rest?
“I suspect JJ [Redick] will get one coming up soon,” Brown said. “Ben [Simmons] is incredibly reliable, durable and I think we got to pay attention as much to him as some of the obvious ones we just talked about. I think none of us should be surprised if these guys miss some games.”
Simmons and Tobias Harris have logged a ton of minutes — especially lately while Embiid was out —and both players have played 66 games this season. They’re both still young and have proven to be durable during their careers. It’ll be interesting to see if Brown rests either player or scales back their minutes as the postseason approaches.
The return of Boban
Boban Marjanovic will return to the lineup Tuesday after missing the last six games. Marjanovic was recovering from a sprain and bruise in his right knee, but the injury certainly looked scarier when it happened on Feb. 25, in New Orleans.
“He’s spectacularly genuine as a teammate,” Brown said of Marjanovic. “I’m just so happy for him that what we all thought was going to maybe a season-ending injury in New Orleans wasn’t the case. Here he is [on the practice floor] and we’ll see him [Tuesday].”
Marjanovic is a fan and teammate favorite, but he’s also given the Sixers some solid minutes. There’s still concern about his lack of athleticism in defending pick-and-rolls and stretch bigs, but he does offer some rim protection and has an underrated offensive game.
Ennis winning ‘the tournament’
In “the tournament” for bench minutes, James Ennis seems to have pulled ahead of Jonathon Simmons. With regular minutes in his last three games, Ennis has looked more comfortable and showed a little more of what he brings to the table.
“I think there’s a quiet athleticism that has surprised me,” Brown said. “He’s had some sneaky dunks that you wouldn’t have expected. He had an offensive rebound last night off a missed free throw. There was an explosion, there was an athleticism that caught me pleasantly by surprise.”
So why has it taken so long for Ennis to look comfortable? Just think about the offense he came from in Houston. It was the James Harden show and all Ennis was asked to do was spot up in the corner and look for open threes.
Brown’s pace-and- space system is much more dependent on ball and player movement. It’s taken Ennis time to adjust.
The Sixers won’t be asking a ton from Ennis, but they’ll need at least 10 minutes per game from a wing player if Brown does go to a nine-man rotation once the playoffs begin. Ennis is looking like the frontrunner for that role.
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