What to watch as 76ers return to the Staples Center to play Clippers
The 32-13 Philadelphia 76ers will be right back at Staples Center Saturday night after a victory there Thursday over the Los Angeles Lakers. Although this time, they play the Los Angeles Lakers.
Here’s three things to look out for Saturday night:
Clippers without key players due to injuries
Patrick Beverley (right knee soreness) and Serge Ibaka (lower back tightness) who are both normal starers for the Clippers have been sidelined since mid-March. Kawhi Leonard missed the Clippers’ win Thursday over the San Antonio Spurs with right foot soreness and is listed as questionable Saturday night. Marcus Morris is also questionable with a right calf contusion. Reggie Jackson and Ivica Zubac have been replacement starters for Beverley and Ibaka while second-year player Terance Mann stepped in Thursday for Leonard.
Joel Embiid (left knee bone bruise) was the only Sixer on the Friday night injury report. As for when new addition George Hill will be available, President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey said Thursday, “I don’t want to give a timeline, but it’s not long.” Hill has been out after having surgery on his right thumb.
Doc Rivers takes on former team
This will be Philadelphia’s head coach Doc Rivers’ first game against the Clippers since being fired on Sept. 28. He wasn’t unemployed long as the Sixers hired him on Oct. 1. The cross-country shift has certainly worked well on his end as he’s done an excellent job leading the first-place Sixers.
“Listen, I made a lot of friends there,” Rivers said Thursday. “I made very few enemies, you know what I mean? Hopefully not. Walking in the door today, it’s the same people. I don’t know if people understand that, when you come to Staples Center, the same workers work both games. For me, saying hi to all of them walking in today was fantastic.
“It’s sad, though. A lot of guys that park the cars and things like that are not working right now. They only have one guy back there due to COVID. Even though we’re playing the games, you can still see a lot of the people who work the arenas and are involved in everyday operations don’t have a job right now or are laid off. That hits home when you come back to somewhere where you’re used to seeing a lot of people. That was the first thing that I actually noticed walking in this building.”
Tyronn Lue, an assistant under Rivers on the Boston Celtics and Clippers, has taken over his old job. As was the case with Rivers last season, he’ll ultimately be judged most on how the Clippers fare in the postseason.
Do the Sixers have the best defense in the league?
Morey thinks the Sixers’ championship hunt sits on their defense. “We feel like if we’re going to win the title, we have to be the best defense in the league,” he said.
“Right now I think we’re number two. I believe we’re going to finish the season number one. We felt like George solidified that. Team often will attack your weakest defender on the floor, and we had quite a few lineups where there was an option for the other team to attack.”
For the season, the Sixers have a 108.0 defensive rating except garbage time, per Cleaning the Glass, which is second behind the Lakers.
Since the All-Star break, though, their defense has been tremendous. The team has a 100.1 post-All-Star defensive rating, per Cleaning The Glass. That’s 6.2 points better than the number two Lakers.
The most an opponent has scored on the Sixers after the break is the Bucks’ 109 points on March 17 (in an overtime game), the Sixers’ only loss this month.