Sixers

3 storylines to watch before streaking Sixers meet Houston again

Sixers

A week after beating the Rockets by 20 points in Philadelphia, the Sixers are on the road Monday to meet Houston.

It’s a matchup that was originally scheduled for Jan. 24. The NBA rescheduled the postponed Sixers-Pelicans game for Jan. 25. 

Here are essentials for Monday's game: 

  • When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7:15 p.m. 
  • Where: Toyota Center 
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

And here are storylines to watch: 

Wood and Porter Jr. back 

The 11-30 Rockets suspended Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. for their loss to the Sixers last week following incidents with the two players during a game in Denver. Both have returned to Houston’s lineup, and Porter hit a buzzer-beater three-pointer to beat the Wizards in his first game back.

The last time Wood faced the Sixers was March 11, 2020, the surreal night the NBA suspended its season. He scored 32 points in his final game with the Pistons. 

Houston will be playing the second game of a back-to-back after falling Sunday to the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns led Minnesota with 40 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

Tyrese Maxey (health and safety protocols), Paul Reed (protocols), Shake Milton (back contusion), Jaden Springer (non-COVID illness) and Ben Simmons (personal reasons) remain out for the Sixers. Seth Curry was listed as questionable because of left ankle soreness. Isaiah Joe, who missed Friday’s win over San Antonio with back pain, wasn’t listed on the team’s injury report. 

 

Embid leading the break 

Joel Embiid is no small-ball five — there aren’t many larger people in the sport, in fact — but his skill as a ball handler, shooter and passer opens up options.

“Him handling the ball, it allows us to play the King Kong-Godzilla lineup with him and (Andre Drummond),” Danny Green said Sunday. “Drum, the way he can move, too, when those guys play together it can get pretty exciting when they start running the floor extremely well. With Joel handling, it allows us to have different lineups, small and big.”

Embiid’s improved handle and sharper decision-making lessen the risk of his fast-break ventures. And it’s especially useful for the Sixers without Maxey and Milton as they aim to play at a quicker pace. 

We’re not a pure point guard team anyway,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said Sunday. “Obviously with Tyrese we become (that) a little bit more. But you look at Golden State with Draymond (Green), when he brings it up, it just creates indecision, especially in transition when (the defense) can’t match up half the time. 

“The other night Joel brought it up, and the two was guarding him and the five was coming. The two runs off to go guard his guy and Joel just keeps coming downhill. That’s the kind of stuff that happens, so it’s been good.”

One month out 

The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 10 and Simmons is still a Sixer despite having played in zero games this season.

While not every game is (or should be) a referendum on the right approach for president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, the Sixers are the team with the NBA’s most scrutinized trade target. If they extend their six-game winning streak and stay hot, the league will notice. Team executives will surely be keeping tabs on the performances of individual Sixers not named Simmons, too.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania on Monday named the the Hawks, Kings, Blazers, Timberwolves and Pacers as among the “suitors” for Simmons.

Embiid’s spectacular play heightens the pressure on Morey to get things right. Whether or not that also aligns with urgency to make a pre-deadline trade is debatable. The opinion here is that Morey is correct to seek a “difference-maker” and that waiting it out past the deadline wouldn’t automatically be indefensible or the wrong move. Until there’s a resolution, it’s a subject that will draw intense attention.