The Sixers sat out this year’s NBA Christmas action, but they return this weekend with games against the Knicks and Cavaliers.
Here are the essentials for the first half of their road back-to-back:
- When: 7:30 p.m. with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
- Where: Madison Square Garden
- Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
- Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
A good shot to start strong
The 2019-20 Sixers opened 5-0 and were the last unbeaten team in the NBA. Though that will be challenging to duplicate, this season’s team should have an opportunity to string early wins together. Just two of the Sixers’ first eight games are against teams that made the playoffs in the 2019-20 season.
They’ll be facing a shorthanded Knicks team Saturday. Rookies Obi Toppin (sore right calf) and Immanuel Quickley (sore left hip) are out, Knicks head coach Tim Thibodeau told reporters, along with Austin Rivers (groin soreness) and Omari Spellman (sore right knee).
On the road again
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers is well aware of the Sixers’ massive home-road disparity last year.
“… That can’t happen, obviously — especially when you look at their overall record and you do a deep dive on their wins and losses,” Rivers said on Dec. 9. “They were phenomenal at home, almost unbeatable at home. They were very beatable on the road. And then they lost to a lot of sub-.500 teams, as well, so that’s something we’re going to try to improve — we have to improve if we want to be a better team.”
There’s nothing especially complicated about his initial plan to remedy the team’s road woes after the Sixers went 10-24 last season in pre-bubble away games.
“Well, the only way you get a new road identity is by winning,” he said Friday with a laugh. “We’ve got to go win games. This is what it is. I’m watching these games, and I think you guys are watching all these games too, and it’s amazing, some play is good, some is sloppy — you don’t know. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to find a way to win the games. We’ve got to go out on this road trip with that mindset — let’s win two games.”
Who closes it out?
If Saturday’s contest is tight, it will be interesting to see who’s on the floor for the Sixers in the final minutes.
The Sixers used Ben Simmons, Shake Milton, Seth Curry, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid in crunch time of their win Wednesday over the Wizards, and that lineup performed well. Danny Green had a difficult Sixers debut, playing 18 minutes and shooting 1 for 6 after his short and unusual offseason.
Green couldn’t practice with the Sixers until Dec. 9 as he waited for the trade sending him to Philadelphia to become official. Milton, meanwhile, built on an excellent preseason by scoring 19 points and playing good defense on Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal.
“Listen, we’re going to put the best group out, and sometimes it’s going to be that group,” Rivers said. “That unit’s not a bad unit, obviously, to have on the floor, because they have so much skill. You may put more of a defensive unit in at the end of games, too. We have a lot of players. My guess is at the end of the games, there’s going to probably be different lineups.”