The Philadelphia 76ers could fall below .500 for the first time since game seven of the season.
The Philadelphia 76ers are currently 14-14 on the season, good enough for 10th in the Eastern Conference. That’s solid considering their injury problems and strength of schedule, but it could get worse before it gets better.
Monday kicks off another back-to-back for the Sixers, as they’ll travel to Chicago before making the trip back home to face the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night. Given Joel Embiid‘s medical restrictions, the potential All-Star will sit out the first game on the road.
Normally, this would be viewed as a net positive. Back-to-backs are always tough, but the Sixers, who are more than talented enough to beat subpar opponents, are facing two of the league’s bottom-dwelling teams. Recent struggles, combined with the Bulls’ recent hot streak, make those matchups a lot more difficult than they might seem at face value, though.
Chicago is currently 5-0 since Nikola Mirotic got back in the rotation — an odd trend when you consider the Spaniard’s shaky status with the team this offseason. And that was before the whole punching fiasco with teammate Bobby Portis.
Nonetheless, Mirotic is averaging 20 points per contest since his return and pacing the Bulls during a surprisingly competitive streak. Rookie Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn have been Chicago’s best players otherwise, so it’s not as if they’re loaded with talent, but their recent run has to be respected.
The Sixers have lost to some questionable teams recently as well. In dropping five of their last six contests, three of Philly’s losses came to teams with a below-.500 record. Without Embiid on the floor, that doesn’t put them in an unbeatable position come Monday night.
Ben Simmons and J.J. Redick also need to step it up, as both have struggled to get things going consistently in recent games. Simmons has to be more aggressive in looking for his own offense, while Redick simply needs to hit shots. Hopefully Embiid’s absence will help with the former.
This could be an unexpectedly tough outing for the Sixers, as going on the road and facing a red-hot team with tons of confidence is always difficult.
The Sixers should be prohibitive favorites, but they’ll need to show some fight to avoid falling below .500 for the first time since Oct. 30.