Philadelphia (39-30) are bearing down on their first playoff berth in six years and looking for a fourth straight victory. The 76ers are in the third game of a four-game stretch against the league’s also-rans and used a big third quarter to beat the Charlotte Hornets 108-94 on Monday night for their 13th win in 14 home games.
Joel Embiid had 25 points and a career high-tying 19 rebounds while rookie Ben Simmons notched his ninth triple-double by adding 11 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds. Embiid also hit four 3-pointers as the 76ers drilled a season high-tying 18 from beyond the arc.
Memphis (19-51) were thwarted in their bid for back-to-back wins for the first time since a three-game run from January 15-19 after a 118-115 loss at Brooklyn on Monday night for their 20th loss in 21 games. Andrew Harrison had 19 points to lead seven players in double figures, but defense was the primary reason for this defeat as the Grizzlies allowed 16 3-pointers and were outscored 30-13 at the foul line as they committed a season-worst 33 fouls.
The Grizzlies have dropped 15 straight road games since a 114-96 win at Sacramento on December 31. They have averaged just 96.0 points in those defeats while being outscored by 12.1 per contest, giving up 100 or more in all but one contest.
Three keys to the game
Sixers out to end a pair of lengthy skids versus Grizzlies - Despite their breakout season, the 76ers have some unfinished business against the Grizzlies as they look to avoid a season sweep to them. Philadelphia, who lost 105-101 at Memphis on January 22, have dropped ten straight overall to the Grizzlies since a 99-89 win December 26, 2012, and they have lost seven in a row at home to them since a 91-87 victory February 11, 2009.
Will Gasol play? - Grizzlies center Marc Gasol was a late scratch Monday night in Brooklyn due to an illness and is listed as probable for this contest. Gasol, who averages 17.7 points and 8.5 rebounds, did practice Tuesday and is listed as probable, but coach J. B. Bickerstaff has occasionally held out the veteran during this frustrating stretch to get a look at his younger players.
Simmons continues tear - The 76ers point guard is making a late push for NBA Rookie of the Year honors with three of his nine-triple doubles in the last four games. His most recent one against Charlotte may have been the most impressive one of the nine as he racked up those 15 assists without committing a turnover in just 33 minutes.
Matchup to watch
PG - Andrew Harrison vs PG Ben Simmons - As Bickerstaff has an eye on the future and has been sitting Tyreke Evans, he has been giving Harrison, a second-year guard, a lengthy look. After missing nine games with a sore right wrist, Harrison did not miss a beat with his 19 points and eight assists without a turnover.
But it will be his defense that will be scruitinized against a red-hot Simmons, against whom he gives four inches despite being 6' 6". The Sixers' facilitator has recorded six or more assists in 20 straight games and he's also shot 40 percent or better in his last 17 outings.
Memphis Grizzlies projected starting lineup
PG - Andrew Harrison | SG - Dillon Brooks | C - Deyonta Davis | SF - JaMychal Green | PF - Jarell Martin
Philadelphia 76ers projected starting lineup
PG - Ben Simmons | SG - J. J. Redick | C - Joel Embiid | SF - Robert Covington | PF - Dario Saric
Whether playing small forward or shooting guard, Dillon Brooks is making a strong late-season push for the Grizzlies and has averaged 18.2 points in his last nine games. That is almost double his season mark of 10.5 per contest, and the rookie has made 40.4 percent of his 3-point shots (19 for 47) in that stretch. Brooks was held to seven points and four rebounds in the January win, shooting two of seven.
JaMychal Green has also been a steady contributor, averaging 11.5 points and 10.3 rebounds in his last 14 games while posting ten double-doubles in that span after totaling 14 points and 16 rebounds versus Brooklyn. He missed the first game between the teams with a sore ankle but totaled 23 points and 21 rebounds in the two games last season.
Embiid is riding a streak of four straight double-doubles, averaging 26.8 points, 15.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocks. He's also committed 21 turnovers in this stretch and finished one shy of an awkward triple-double Monday night. Embiid had 15 points and 14 rebounds in the January loss, and he totaled 12 and 11 in his only other game against the Grizzlies last season.
Despite going two of seven from beyond the arc Monday, J. J. Redick is still shooting 47.0 percent (31 for 66) from 3-point range in his last 11 games. averaging 16.8 points in that stretch. He missed the game in Memphis with a leg bruise and has averaged 12.8 points while connecting on 38.9 percent of his long-range shots spanning 19 contests.
There is no line established on the game because of the uncertain status of Gasol. The Grizzlies don't have many trends in their favor, but one is that they have covered in six of their last eight trips to Philadelphia.
Memphis has covered just twice in their last seven games overall and are 3-7 against the spread in their last ten games on the road. They are also 2-8 versus the number in their last ten against Eastern Conference opponents.
The 76ers have been a solid pick for bettors at home, covering nine times in their last ten there against opponents with a losing road record. They are also 11-3 against the spread in their last 14 at home overall. Philadelphia are also 23-9-2 versus the spread in their last 34 against Southwest Division opponents and 48-21-1 in their last 70 versus Western Conference teams.
Philadelphia's last playoff berth came in the lockout-shortened season, so the 76ers have not had a winning record in an 82-game season since going 43-39 in 2004/05. But if they want to host the first round of the playoffs, they will need a few more than that since there are five teams in the East with at least 38 wins but not over 41.
While ending their woes against Memphis would be nice, this is about taking care of business. and to coach Brett Brown, that means Philadelphia's defense has to be on point. That was something Simmons, for all his other-worldly skills offensively, realizes as much as anyone.
“It’s just frustrating,” he told Philly.com. "Missing plays or just messing up on the floor, turnovers, rebounds that you should’ve gotten,” he said, “It’s just the little things that kind of get under your skin."
Despite an absolutely miserable stretch, one never gets the sense the Grizzlies are mailing it in with the players who do get time. The personnel decisions Bickerstaff makes from game to game are always subject to interpretation regarding tanking, but there are glimpses of a foundation in Harrison and Brooks, and maybe Green.
But this is about Philadelphia and their playoff chase. Their magic number for clinching a playoff spot is five, and it will get cut to four after they post a 108-93 victory.
The game will be televised locally on Fox Sports Southeast - Memphis and NBC Sports Philadelphia. Tip-off time is 7 pm EDT.
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