With a win Friday night over the Chicago Bulls, the Philadelphia 76ers would improve to 42-4 since the start of last season at Wells Fargo Center. Which is incredible to say the least!

Looking into Friday night’s game against the Bulls, the Sixers will have to take on yet another high scoring guard in Zach LaVine.

Here’s what to watch for tonight:

Availability

Ben Simmons was listed as probable on Friday night’s injury report after missing Wednesday’s game with an illness. Shake Milton has been upgraded to doubtful with a left ankle sprain. If Milton misses this game, it would be his fifth consecutive absence. Joel Embiid, who played through what he called a “pretty tight” back during his 31-point, 11-rebound, and nine-assist performance against the Rockets, did not appear on the injury report. 

Chandler Hutchison (personal reasons), Lauri Markkanen (right shoulder sprain), and Otto Porter Jr. (back spasms) are out for Chicago. The Bulls have started Coby White, Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams, Garrett Temple, and Wendell Carter Jr. in their last two games, although head coach Billy Donovan opened the second half of Wednesday’s contest against the Pistons with a more veteran lineup. That decision worked very well as the Bulls pulled off a comeback win from 25 points down.

Korkmaz’s favorite opponent 

In the two Sixers-Bulls matchups last season, Furkan Korkmaz totaled 55 points on 20-for-28 shooting. Regardless of what he’s done of late, the Bulls will likely be looking out ofor the 23-year-old.

Korkmaz has shot five for 23 over his last four games, and one for 13 from three-point range. With rookie Isaiah Joe receiving 12 minutes in the Sixers’ rotation against Houston, perhaps there’s a bit more pressure on Korkmaz to find his shooting stroke and show why he’s worthy of playing time. If recent history repeats itself, facing the Bulls might just do the trick. 

Will Sixers keep using zone defense? 

When Simmons plays, the Sixers’ default game plan is usually to give him heavy minutes on the opponent’s best offensive player. For Chicago, that’s certainly LaVine, who’s averaged 28.5 points on a career-high 64.9 true shooting percentage, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. He has a good case to be an All-Star. 

Given Matisse Thybulle’s continued brilliance in zone defense, though, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Sixers threw some zone possessions in against the Bulls when he’s on the floor. Practice time is more limited than ever in this pandemic-affected, 72-game season, which means games are sometimes teams’ best opportunity to develop concepts and schemes. 

“We have found, as good as (Thybulle) is in man, he’s even a better zone defender, because he can float around and use his length,” head coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday night. “We haven’t used it much without Ben on the floor — the Matisse-Ben combination is fantastic. Tonight we did it. We really didn’t plan on doing it long — we were going to do it in stretches — but once we figured that it caused confusion, we stayed in it.”

Chicago is a turnover-prone team, with a 16.0 turnover percentage (29th in the league) according to Cleaning the Glass, and the 21-year-old White is figuring out how to play point guard in the NBA. Changing up defensive looks could also make sense for those reasons. 

Tonight’s essentials

  • When: 7:30 P.M. E.S.T.
  • Where: Wells Fargo Center  
  • Broadcast: ESPN, NBC Sports Philadelphia 
  • Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic
  • Social media coverage: Philly Sports Reports’ Twitter & Instagram