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Sixers —with or without Jimmy Butler— in Brooklyn Sunday night

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Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Nets took a tough loss to the Timberwolves on Friday, looking lackluster in the third quarter and almost making a comeback in the fourth. Happens. Next up are the Philadelphia 76ers who were the winners of four straight prior to a Friday loss to the Cavs, and look rejuvenated in the Jimmy Butler era. Philly is a tough out, despite losing to the Nets 122-97 earlier this month. They’ve gotten even better and the Nets are going to have to bring their A-game to finish off this busy week of basketball with a win and a 2-2 record. Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WCBS 880 am have this one at 6 p.m, ET. Another game on the earlier side but not quite noon! Great way to end the week (if its a W).

Injuries

Caris Levert (foot) and Treveon Graham (hamstring) are still out. Dzazan Musa and Rodions Kurucs are still assigned to Long Island. The G Leaguers play in Grand Rapids Saturday.

Jonah Bolden (leg), Justin Patton (foot) and Zhaire Smith (foot) are all out for this one. Also, Markelle Fultz (shoulder/wrist) is set to see a specialist about whatever is going on with him. I feel bad for him. It’s still unclear what exactly is going on, but Philadelphia at this point in time just does not feel like the best place for him to figure it out. Trade him to the Magic or something and let him figure everything out in a lower pressure situation. I digress.

Meanwhile, Butler (ankle) is questionable. He got hurt in the Cavs game, but X-rays were negative, but is still in discomfort. Butler says he wants to play.

The Game

The Sixers needed another wing who could play some shut down defense as well as handle the ball and score at a high volume if they needed him to. Basically, they needed an upgraded Robert Covington, and that’s what they got in Jimmy Butler. He’s looked good so far in Philly, putting up 18 points a game while shooting 50% from the floor and 43% from deep, but he also just makes sense next to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

Once Wilson Chandler is inevitably replaced at power forward, this Sixers team might be looking at a viable closing lineup for the NBA Finals should they wind up there come June.

The Nets are going to have to fire on all cylinders in this one, and that means Allen Crabbe and Joe Harris have to figure it out and both play well in the same games. The blame here obviously leans way more on the Crabbe side, but it’s imperative going forward that these two can find the consistency to provide the Nets with spacing and scoring on an even somewhat consistent basis together.

One thing the Sixers do just about better than everyone else is get to the free throw line, where they rank first in the league in attempts. The Nets are still a young team, which can often lead to sloppier defense. It should come as no surprise the Nets rank 26th in the league in personal fouls per game with 23.9 and have been averaging even more than that over their last 3 with 24.7 per game. The biggest offenders are Joe Harris, Ed Davis, and Spencer Dinwiddie who all average over 3 personal fouls a game. Could be an issue, especially if Simmons and Embiid decide it’s a nice night to attack the basket every other possession.

What the Nets are good at, for some reason, is fourth quarter scoring where they rank 6th in the league. Philly ranks 25th. This actually makes sense when we consider the Nets to be a team that isn’t quite “good” yet but also not necessarily “bad.” So they find themselves trying to play back into games late, like that Timberwolves game, rather than laying down and letting the clock run out so they can go home and play Fortnite.

Also, the Nets already have played five back-to-backs and logged an NBA-high 12 road games. Now, they have begun a stretch where they play 13 of 17 at home. Time to make hay.

Player To Watch

Joel Embiid really has been incredible this season. He’s putting up MVP numbers while leading the Sixers to one of the best records in the league. Embiid is attempting more shots per game while increasing his True Shooting Percentage, and while that’s impressive and all, it doesn’t take into account his ability to absolutely take over a basketball game when he pushes himself. He’s the kind of guy who can ruin your night if he’s in the mood, just ask Andre Drummond. 27.9 points per game with 13.3 rebounds really could win him MVP if he keeps it up ann year and leads the sixers to a top seed. He’ll be in the discussion at the very least. Anyway, Jarrett Allen is going to have his hands full, and might need Ed Davis to step in if Embiid decides to be a bully. No one bullies Ed Davis.

From The Vault

Have nice Sundays everyone.

Enjoy.

For another perspective, go to Liberty Ballers, the 76ers blog on SB Nation.