Sixers

Sixers' first opponent of 2022 is Rockets team dealing with drama

Sixers

A victory Monday night over the 10-27 Rockets would give the Sixers a four-game winning streak, their longest since a six-game run from Oct. 28 to Nov. 6.

Monday’s game will be the first in which fans at Wells Fargo Center must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry. Presenting proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test is also an option until Jan. 17.

It will also be the Sixers’ annual Pride Night. 

Here are the essentials for the game:

  • When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6 p.m. 
  • Where: Wells Fargo Center 
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

And here are three storylines to watch:

Rockets drama 

Houston made headlines for the wrong reasons on Saturday when neither Kevin Porter Jr. nor Christian Wood appeared in the second half of a loss to the Nuggets, the Rockets’ seventh straight defeat. Below is a section of a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Kelly Iko

“Sources said (Rockets assistant coach John Lucas) called out multiple players, including Porter and Christian Wood — who was benched after missing a mandatory COVID-19 testing window — during halftime, focusing on Porter’s play and Wood's effort level. As things escalated, Porter threw an object, needed to be separated from Lucas and then got in his car and left the arena. Wood refused to sub into the game in the second half, sources added.”

ESPN's Tim MacMahon and Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday that Wood and Porter traveled to Philadelphia but have been suspended for the matchup with the Sixers. 

 

The Rockets have also ruled out Alperen Sengun (right ankle sprain), Armani Brooks and DeJon Jarreau (health and safety protocols). Eric Gordon was questionable with right hamstring tightness. 

For the Sixers, Danny Green is back after being sidelined with COVID-19. Jaden Springer and Myles Powell are out because of health and safety protocols, while Matisse Thybulle was listed as questionable. Dan Burke will again serve as acting head coach with Doc Rivers in COVID protocols. 

Hoping to keep rolling 

Burke wished the Sixers could’ve gotten right back at it following an impressive win Thursday in Brooklyn. 

“We’re trying to keep this momentum after a three-game road trip,” he said after practice Sunday. “It’s like, we want to play again. We don’t want three, four days.” 

Georges Niang hit on the same theme.

“As a collective group, we’re having each other’s back — being ready on the help side; making that extra pass; helping a teammate up,” he said. “I think we’re doing all the little things that teams do. … That’s growth for us. 

“We want to keep that momentum trending up. We want to take full advantage of the games at home. I think we’ve build a lot of camaraderie these past three games and continue to grow together."

The youthful Rockets rank third in pace and last in turnover percentage and fast-break points conceded, so there likely won’t be as much stress on the Sixers’ half-court offense as usual. No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green is the obvious name to watch. The incredibly athletic shooting guard scored 29 points Saturday and took a rookie-high 14 free throws.

New year, same Embiid? 

At the moment, the Sixers should feel quite confident in Joel Embiid regardless of who he faces. Houston has Daniel Theis, a familiar Embiid foe from his time with the Celtics.

Embiid finished an exceptional month of December with averages of 29.2 points on 49.6/39.1/84.5 shooting splits, 11.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks. As long as he’s healthy and playing around that level, the Sixers are a tricky matchup for many opponents. 

“He’s been a monster,” Niang said, “punishing guys in the post, making threes, making contested jump shots as you saw in Boston with that show he put on over there. I think he’s really taken it upon himself to continue to grow as a basketball player, but also grow as a leader. 

“And I think that’s the next step for Joel. Joel could go out and score as many points as he wants, but it’s the little things; it’s getting the other four guys on the court with him to do what they need to do to help win games. And I think Joel’s growth as a leader is going to do great things for his career, but also be great for the people around him and the team that he’s on. I’m lucky enough to be on his team, because he’s molding into a top-five player, top-three player in the NBA right now.”