Updated: 5:56 p.m.
The Sixers on Tuesday lost to the only team without a defeat in the NBA's "bubble," falling to the Suns. Wednesday, they'll play the team with the second-best record at Disney World. The Toronto Raptors are 5-1 in Orlando and 51-19 overall.
Here are the essentials:
When: 6:30 p.m. with Sixers Pregame Live at 6
Where: The Field House at The Wide World of Sports Complex
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
Factors behind the rest
Before the Sixers’ loss Tuesday, Brett Brown was asked about the team not having any of its opening night starting lineup available. Josh Richardson rested, while Tobias Harris (right ankle soreness), Al Horford (left knee soreness) and Joel Embiid (left ankle injury) were listed as out with injuries. We won’t see Ben Simmons for some time after he had surgery on his left knee.
Initially, Brown didn’t have much to add.
“I’m sure they could play (if it was a playoff game), but it isn’t,” he said.
He then expanded on the thinking behind so many of the team’s top players being out.
“If you went to any coach in the NBA, you’re going to get that,” he said. “What ends up happening, also, is it gets doubled down on with the medical people and it ends up a cumulative decision that’s collaborated on with the players. Living in this world that we’re in down here I don’t think changes — we could be in Philadelphia, I bet we would’ve done the same thing.
“But I feel like, when you sort of feel the physical side of our team and some of the subtle injuries, the fact that you don’t have the depth that you used to with Ben, all those things added up have influenced this decision.”
For the team’s penultimate seeding game, the Sixers will be near full strength. Simmons remains out, of course, and Alec Burks is sidelined with left foot soreness, but the starters who missed Tuesday's game are available.
Glenn Robinson is also out with the left hip pointer injury that sidelined him for the Sixers' first four seeding games, per NBC Sports Philadelphia's Serena Winters. After Tuesday's game, Robinson said he still felt the injury "a little bit."
Toronto is locked into the No. 2 seed, while the Sixers are a game behind the No. 5 Pacers. According to Basketball Reference, there’s a 94.8 percent chance the Sixers finish as the No. 6 seed. It’s possible, therefore, that the Sixers could play the Raptors in the second round in consecutive years.
The Raptors were the first team to travel to Florida and have wins there over the Lakers, Heat and Bucks. Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet are not on the injury report after missing Monday’s win over Milwaukee, while Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw and Oshae Brissett are all out for Toronto, who has no reason to push any key players. Pascal Siakam’s 28 minutes were the most of any Raptors starter vs. the Bucks.
The Sixers can even the regular-season series against Toronto at 2-2 with a win. Notable moments against the Raptors this season include Embiid being held scoreless on Nov. 25 and Matisse Thybulle putting up a career-high 20 points on Dec. 8 in a game the Sixers kept interesting until the end with a flurry of late turnovers.
More playoff prep for Thybulle
Time is running out, but Thybulle should have another chance here to fine-tune his defense, which Brown and the Sixers expect to count on, before the postseason.
He was frustrated by fouls Tuesday, picking up a technical and accruing five fouls by early in the third quarter. Brown thought there were lessons to take away for the rookie about how to play in those situations.
“I think one of the areas that he can learn from the most is how do you play with five fouls,” Brown said. “I thought that he was so trying to do the right thing and trying not to foul out that (Devin) Booker could kind of score easily. And I get why he would think that. But when we go into the next world of the playoffs, when I look at who are my best defensive wings now that you don’t have Ben, Matisse is clearly amongst that. I think Glenn Robinson’s got a shot at being in that group. I know J-Rich is a part of that group.
“You start playing that game in the event that foul trouble happens, how can you play with foul trouble? Because sometimes you’re just going to have to. And I thought that in general, he was pretty good. I thought that specific thing that I’m talking about, that’s a transferrable lesson, especially as the playoffs become closer.”
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