When fully healthy, the Philadelphia 76ers look to be capable of challenging for an NBA championship.
But with 15 games remaining before the playoffs, the Sixers (39-18) need to find the proper balance. And it won’t be easy.
Playing without Ben Simmons (illness) and Tobias Harris (knee), the Sixers fell 107-96 to the Golden State Warriors on Monday. Steph Curry was magnificent with 49 points.
The Sixers will host the Phoenix Suns (41-16) on Wednesday and will face a similar challenge against arguably the best backcourt in the league in Devin Booker and Chris Paul.
“We didn’t do a great job,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said. “We didn’t really. I thought we could have guarded him (Curry) differently. But really, we were flat tonight, didn’t have any energy offensively.”
It’s unclear whether Simmons and Harris will be available. Rivers believes that Simmons is dealing with a stomach virus.
“But I can’t with certainty tell you that,” Rivers said.
Harris has missed the last two games with right knee soreness.
Joel Embiid, a legitimate candidate for Most Valuable Player, had 28 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in the loss to the Warriors. Embiid has missed 18 games this season with a variety of injuries.
The Sixers did receive a boost with the debut of 34-year-old George Hill, who was acquired at the trade deadline. Hill had surgery on his right thumb on Feb. 2. and hadn’t played in a game since Jan. 24.
“We’re not going to play him a lot of minutes in a row right now. We’re just going to try to ease him in,” Rivers said after Hill had two points, two assists, two rebounds and two blocked shots in 18 minutes.
The Suns will visit Philadelphia with positive momentum following a dramatic 128-127 overtime win Monday on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Booker converted the first of two free throws with 0.3 seconds remaining. Booker finished with 24 points while Paul added 22 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds.
There were 24 lead changes in the wild game, a preview of what the postseason will be like.
“It was everything that the playoffs are,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said. “Emotion. Physical. Players making plays. Late-game situations. It was all of that.”
Paul’s 13 assists vaulted him into fifth place all-time with 10,141. He passed Magic Johnson to achieve the special milestone.
“There will never be another Magic,” Paul said. “Showtime. You know what I mean?”
The Suns’ trip to Philadelphia will be the second of a difficult five-game road trip. Last season, the Suns went undefeated in the bubble but just barely missed the playoffs. This season, they’re competing for one of the top seeds.
The young group, with a boost by the veteran presence of Paul, appears primed for a deep postseason run.
“It’s big for us,” Booker said of the win at Milwaukee. “I think it’s the right way to start off this trip. I think it’s great moving into our next games. We knew going into this trip there’s not going to be any easy games. So any of them we can grind out like that, however we get it.”
–Field Level Media