At 48-22 following a successful 3-0 road trip, the Philadelphia 76ers moved up to the second spot in the Eastern Conference late Saturday night. The club brings an NBA-best eight-game winning steak – matching their longest of the season – into Monday’s home game against the Chicago Bulls (33-37).
The 76ers, who boast a league-best 36-10 record since Dec. 9, will also celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1982-83 championship team on Monday.
“This is something we already knew,” the Sixers’ De’Anthony Melton said when asked about what they have learned during this run. “We feel like we're the best team. We feel like we have a top defense, top offense. We go into the games with that mindset.”
It’s just a quick stay at home for the red-hot Sixers, who will visit Chicago in two days to tip off another challenging road swing, a four-gamer in this instance. All but five of their 17 games this month have taken or will take place away from home.
In a 141-121 win at Indiana on Saturday – the second half of a road back-to-back, which began in Charlotte – Joel Embiid made history once again with his ninth-straight 30-point game. He surpassed Wilt Chamberlain and Allen Iverson for the longest streak in 76ers history. The win, paired with a Celtics loss in Utah later on, placed the Sixers percentage points ahead of Boston in the standings.
“We have a guy in Joel who they are double teaming,” 76ers Head Coach Doc Rivers said. “So when you move the ball, you just keep moving it and find the open guy, and I thought we did that. The last two [games], our passing has been spectacular.”
Chicago, meanwhile, ranks 10th in the East. The Bulls swept a home back-to-back of Minnesota (2OT) and Miami on the same days that the Sixers played.
DeMar DeRozan (25.4) and Zach LaVine (25.0) combine to score more than 50 points per game, while former Sixer Nikola Vučević pulls down the most rebounds on the team at 11.3 (fifth in the NBA) per contest. DeRozan posted season highs of 49 points (15-25 fg, 2-4 3fg, 17-18 ft) and 14 rebounds on Friday, while LaVine added 39 points (15-25 fg, 4-9 3fg, 5-5 ft). The next night, DeRozan compiled 24 points (10-15 fg, 2-4 3fg, 2-2 ft), five boards, and a season-high-tying 10 assists.
The injury report as of Sunday night included the following Bulls players: Lonzo Ball (out - left knee surgery), Alex Caruso (questionable - left foot soreness), Javonte Green (questionable - right knee surgery), and Justin Lewis (out - right knee surgery).
P.J. Tucker is questionable for the Sixers with left ankle soreness.
The two clubs split the first two games of the season series, with each winning on the opponent’s home court. The Sixers won by five, 114-109, early on in the campaign before the Bulls got 11 threes and 41 points from LaVine in South Philadelphia during the first week of January – a 126-112 Chicago victory.
In the Sixers’ last game against the Pacers, the league scoring leader in Embiid (33.5 PPG) rested the fourth quarter again with his team in the driver’s seat. Neither the NBA assist leader James Harden (10.8 APG) nor fellow starter P.J. Tucker suited up for the final game of the trip, but the Sixers received 31-point performances from both Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.
“It's fun,” Embiid said postgame. “The ball is moving, guys are making shots, guys are getting easy shots. The game kind of looks – I wouldn't say easy, but guys are getting in a rhythm and we're doing it as a team.”
“If I wanted to be a playmaker, I could be, but I don't need to because I've got the best playmaker in the league. In the games that [Harden] doesn't play, I take on that role and it's fun.”
The Bulls form one of the top defenses (No. 5 in defensive rating), while the Sixers ranked third and seventh, respectively, in offensive and defensive efficiency as of Sunday.
Monday is a 7 p.m. ET tipoff in South Philadelphia.
Saturday’s Top Performances:
The Sixers shot 61-percent (54-88) overall and 43-percent (15-35) from 3-point range at Indiana.
Six 76ers dropped at least 10 points against the Pacers, and two more players neared double figures off the bench:
- Joel Embiid: 31 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and two blocks in just 29 minutes
- Tyrese Maxey: 31 points, two rebounds, seven assists, and one steal in 35 minutes
- Tobias Harris: 24 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two blocks in 32 minutes
- Harris shot a combined 16-for-23 (.696) from the floor over the weekend.
- De’Anthony Melton: 14 points, five rebounds, five assists, six steals, and one block in 34 minutes
- “He did everything,” Doc Rivers said of Melton. “He just does De'Anthony stuff. We were joking – he's the best foul-to-give guy ever. Because he goes for the steal, and he gets them. He's been fantastic.”
- Paul Reed: 10 points, three rebounds, one assist, and one steal in 16 minutes
- Georges Niang: 10 points, two rebounds, one assist, and one steal in 23 minutes
- Shake Milton: Nine points, two rebounds, five assists, two steals, and one block in 28 minutes
- Jalen McDaniels: Seven points and a rebound in 16 minutes
Quote to Note:
76ers Head Coach Doc Rivers on the recent schedule:
“We're not out of it. This flying home from [Indiana] to play one game, to go back on the road for four, it's insane. But it is what it is, and there's nothing you can do about it... We're literally coming home to do laundry, and then we go back on the road. For those guys that do laundry.”
Follow Along Monday:
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic