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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Philadelphia 76ers

The Spurs road trip moves along to the City of Brotherly Love to take on reigning scoring champ Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The last few seasons have brought plenty of regular season success to the Philadelphia 76ers. That infamous 5-year window of tanking and “trusting the process,” has been followed with a degree of success: A handful of 50-win seasons, the rise of an MVP-caliber player and perennial All NBA candidate in Joel Embiid, and the return of playoff NBA basketball in the City of Brotherly Love.

Playoff success, however, has largely eluded them, as the 76ers have bowed out in the Conference Semifinals 4 out of the last 5 years. In a town with some of the most die-hard and serious fans on the planet, they’re clamoring for at LEAST a return to the Eastern Conference Finals, which the Sixers haven’t made since their trip to the 2001 NBA Finals and have made a grand total of 2 trips that deep into the playoffs since 1984.

This lack of playoff success has seemingly forced management’s hand. Former head coach (and current Spurs assistant) Brett Brown was let go following a 1st round loss during the Bubble Season and was replaced by Doc Rivers, while an infamous playoff collapse in the 2021 playoffs and the resulting drama led to Philadelphia parting ways with their other notable “Process,” draft pick, the freakishly gifted, but seemingly uncommitted Ben Simmons. Simmons was included in what was considered a blockbuster deal with the Brooklyn Nets that brought James Harden to town to pair alongside Embiid, who found himself in the MVP conversation last year after becoming the first center to lead the league in scoring since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000. That experiment, too, has yet to bear the fruit that Sixers fans so desperately crave, as Philadelphia lost once again in the conference semis, to the #1 seed Heat.

Philadelphia is 0-2 to start this year after losses to Boston and Milwaukee, two teams with recent trips to the NBA Finals and that are expected to be there once again this year. That 0-2 start likely means that tonight’s game against the rebuilding Spurs is a chance for them to tune-up and pick up their first win of the season. San Antonio, meanwhile, is on a SEGABABA after last night’s game in Indiana, but that doesn’t mean that Gregg Popovich won’t have his team ready to compete.

San Antonio Spurs (1-1) @ Philadelphia 76ers (0-2)

October 22, 2022 | 5:00 PM CT

Watch: Bally Sports Southwest, NBATV | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: None

Sixers Injuries: None

What to Watch For

  • James Harden has scored 66 points through Philly’s first two games and has looked a bit like his old self to start the year, nearly recording triple doubles in both of those losses. Harden and Embiid worked well in the pick and roll game last season and it should be a huge part of their offense this season as well.
  • Embiid had a stinker of a shooting night against Milwaukee, going just 6-21 against the length of the Bucks’ front court. Jakob Poeltl is sure to get the initial assignment, but guarding Embiid will take a team effort, especially on the glass to deny 2nd chance opportunities.
  • The backcourt of Harden and vastly-improved 3rd year guard Tyrese Maxey (who increased his scoring average from 8 points to nearly 18 last season) has the makeup of a dangerous scoring backcourt, but could be challenged defensively. Harden, though a capable defender at times, has been much maligned on that side of the court for years, while Maxey is on the smaller side at 6’2”. The looming presence of Embiid should help clean up much of the eventual defensive miscues that befall every team, but if there’s a place to attack on for the Spurs offense, it could begin against that backcourt.
  • Philadelphia brought in 37 year old forward PJ Tucker on a 3-year, $33 million dollar deal to inject some toughness into a group that’s petered out in the postseason the last few years. Tucker won the NBA championship 2 years ago with Milwaukee and was a key piece on a Miami Heat team last year that claimed the #1 seed in the East and lost in Game 7 of the conference finals.

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