By Connor Thomas
The Sixers are finally back at home after a grueling West Coast road trip on which they lost 3 of their 4 games in the PST time zone. Tonight, Philly will look to end their skid as they welcome the Houston Rockets to town for the teams’ first matchup of the year. The Rockets are also streaking in the wrong direction, as they have lost their last 6 games, and will be fighting hard to right their ship against the Sixers. The positive side of the matchup at face value is that Philly is returning home after a long stint away, while Houston is rounding out a 3 game road trip of their own. Texas may not be the best place to call home right now as blizzards have tormented the lone star state, but the road has not been kind to the Rockets either. The first 2 games of the trip have seem them lose to the Knicks and Wizards, both teams under .500. Now, John Wall and company will have to take on the top seed in the East on the road to try and secure their 12th win of the year. The Sixers are not without their own issues, as MVP candidate and sure All-Star Joel Embiid missed Monday night’s contest in Utah with a back injury. With a day of rest, one would assume that Embiid should be on the floor tonight at the Wells Fargo Center, but about an hour ahead of Monday’s game the Sixers believed that he would be playing that night. Then, just minutes before tip, Embiid was ruled out. If Embiid does play, it would go a long way towards helping Philadelphia, but given his lack of consistency in availability, that is not necessarily a sure thing.
At the end of the day though, if I was a betting man, I would throw good money on Embiid to play tonight. Part of the reason behind the thinking there is that the matchup for the Sixers big man should not be particularly intimidating. Houston center Christian Wood, who has been a revelation this year for the Rockets, should miss the game with an ankle injury, which leaves only aging big DeMarcus Cousins as the only other center on the roster. PJ Tucker, who is listed as a power forward but has played small ball center for the Rockets in the past, also missed Houston’s last game with a left thigh contusion. If he is unable to go, there will be no chance Cousins plays enough minutes to make an impact against Embiid. It will be all hands on deck for the Rockets to try and contain him. The same could be said about one John Wall, who has torched the Sixers in the past during his time as a Washington Wizard. The now veteran point guard, who is spending his first season in Houston, has begun to heat up recently, eclipsing 25 points in 3 of his last 4 games. He has not faced a defensive elite like Ben Simmons yet this year, so it will be Doc Rivers hope that, coming off a 42 point career offensive night, Simmons will now be able to have his usually strong defensive performance tonight. Victor Oladipo, who probably represents Houston’s next best option, has missed multiple contests with a foot injury, so if Wall proves to be ineffective, it should go a long way to breaking the Sixers’ 3 game losing streak.
The offensive matchup of the game for the Sixers is a potential one tonight, as some believe that Shake Milton will return for Philadelphia. The Sixers bench scoring has been almost nonexistent with Milton sidelined for the last couple games with an ankle injury. IF Milton is able to play tonight against Houston, the team will need him to generate a spark for the bench on the offensive end of the floor.
The defensive matchup of the game for the Sixers will be Ben Simmons on John Wall. Wall is a certified scorer and a true NBA point guard who can create offense with ease. Simmons is one of the premier perimeter defenders in the association. Look no further to find the most intriguing matchup when Philly is defending their basket.
TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
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