NBA

NBA Game of the Week: Nets can take advantage of Sixers injury absentees

By Sports Desk November 21, 2022

Kyrie Irving is never too far away from making himself the headline.

The 30-year-old returned on Sunday from the suspension imposed by the Brooklyn Nets after social media activity that appeared to promote a book and film with anti-Semitic tropes.

Following eight games on the sidelines before an eventual apology arrived, Irving was back on the court in the 127-115 win against the Memphis Grizzlies, scoring 14 points along with five rebounds.

Playing just 26 minutes at Barclays Center, he could feature more against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday as he clears off some of the rust.

However, as far as the Sixers are concerned, it will be more about those missing in action.

Former Net James Harden remains out with a foot injury, and he has now been joined by Joel Embiid, who will miss the upcoming clashes with the Nets and the Charlotte Hornets.

The Cameroonian will be a huge miss for Doc Rivers, having been in sensational form of late.

Embiid has an average of 32.6 after 12 outings this season, with his 4.6 assist average also higher than he has managed before in his career.

The 28-year-old had scored over 30 in five of his last six games, including a monstrous performance against the Utah Jazz where he put up 59 points as well as eight assists and 11 rebounds, showing just what a big hole he will leave.

Philadelphia are also still missing Tyrese Maxey, the only player other than Embiid and Harden (22.0) to be averaging over 20 points this season (22.9).

The Sixers had won three on the bounce before defeat last time out against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and face a Nets side that have experienced a bit of resurgence under coach Jacque Vaughn.

Having lost two of his first three games after replacing Steve Nash, including conceding 153 in the loss at Sacramento, Vaughn has seen his team overcome the Portland Trail Blazers and the Grizzlies in their last two.

With no Embiid, Maxey or Harden on the other side of the court, this will surely be an ideal opportunity for the Nets to build some much-needed momentum.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Philadelphia 76ers - Tobias Harris

Recent talk of a potential trade for Harris needs to be pushed to one side as the only available Sixers player to have an average in double figures this season (14.9).

He is another who has suffered recent injury problems having missed the last two games with a hip issue, but he practiced on Monday and surely will be used if possible given all the other absences.

Harris stepped up to support Maxey when Embiid and Harden were both out against the New York Knicks earlier this month, scoring 23 with nine rebounds.

Brooklyn Nets - Kevin Durant

Of course, many eyes will be on Ben Simmons against his former team, especially after his performance against Memphis, but Durant remains Brooklyn's danger man.

While the Nets have struggled for consistency, Durant has been an ever-reliable figure, having not scored fewer than 26 in any of his 17 games this season, at an average of 30.4.

KEY BATTLE - Can Sixers defense keep them in the game?

With so much attacking talent unavailable, it will inevitably mean Philadelphia's ability to keep the opposition's scoring to a minimum will be crucial.

Despite the efforts of Embiid, the Sixers have one of the worst records in the league for scoring this season, with only the Los Angeles Clippers (105.2) averaging less than their 108.6 (level with the Wizards, the Heat and the Rockets).

They do indeed have the third-best record for points against, with only the Clippers (105.4) and the Dallas Mavericks (105.3) conceding fewer than their 106.6 per game. 

HEAD TO HEAD

The Nets won three of their four meetings with the Sixers last season, although Rivers' men were victorious in their last contest in Philly, winning 110-102 at the end of December at Wells Fargo Center.

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    James Harden said he was "all over the place" on his return from injury but vowed to improve once he finds his rhythm for the Philadelphia 76ers.

    The 2018 MVP winner was back in the starting line-up having missed 14 straight games after suffering a tendon strain in his right foot on November 2, with Philly going 4-5 in his absence.

    However, his comeback failed to yield an upturn as the 76ers went down 132-123 to Harden's former team the Houston Rockets following double overtime.

    Harden contributed 21 points but was just 4-of-19 from the field, missing all eight attempts inside the three-point arc. He also chalked up four rebounds and seven assists.

    Philly coach Doc Rivers said Harden would be on a minutes restriction, but he still racked up 39. However, the 33-year-old said it was difficult to find fluidity.

    "I didn't play well, but I've got to be better and I will," Harden said.

    "I was all over the place. I'm not used to it, but I'm not making any excuses. I have to do better." 

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    "But once you go out there as a competitor you want to try to win."

    The 76ers are on a three-match losing streak and sit seventh in the Eastern Conference with a 12-12 record. They next face the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

  • Leonard delighted to deliver last-gasp Clippers heroics on injury return against Hornets Leonard delighted to deliver last-gasp Clippers heroics on injury return against Hornets

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    His step-back three-pointer tied the game at 108-108 with 90 seconds remaining in regulation, ultimately forcing overtime, before back-to-back MVP runner-up Joel Embiid fouled out in the first extra period, leaving the 76ers short-handed for the second overtime.

    Last year's second overall draft pick Jalen Green was strong for the Rockets, scoring 27 points on nine-of-20 shooting with seven assists, while this year's third overall pick Jabari Smith Jr added 16 points and 11 rebounds.

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