“Guys are excited to be around each other,” Shake Milton said following Wednesday’s practice, the team’s first organized activity since the break.
“I think as a unit, we’re excited to get this season going again. Everybody has their eyes focused on the same goal.”
Before turning their attention to the road ahead, Milton and Georges Niang each remarked on new Sixer Mac McClung’s masterful performance at this weekend’s dunk contest.
“I got to see my new teammate, Mac McClung, win the dunk contest - it was awesome. He was electric. It was a lot of fun,” Niang said.
“That was crazy, man,” Milton said of McClung. “For him to come in and win it - Man, I wish I could get up there and do those types of things too. It was big time.”
“He definitely [saved the dunk contest],” Niang added. “I don’t care how humble he’s going to be - I’ll be arrogant for him. It should be mandatory that he’s in it every year.”
Thursday’s meeting with Memphis marks the second and final regular season matchup between the teams, after the Grizzlies won the first clash, 117-109, on Dec. 2 in Memphis.
Ja Morant led the way for the Grizzlies that night, finishing with 28 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. Jaren Jackson Jr. tallied 22 points, nine rebounds, a steal, and four blocks.
Joel Embiid was the Sixers’ leading scorer in Memphis, notching a 35-point, 11-rebound double-double, plus eight assists, a steal, and three blocks. Tobias Harris recorded a 21-point, 11-rebound double-double.
The Grizzlies hold the No. 2 spot in the West, but were 4-6 in their last 10 games before the break. The Sixers went 7-3 in their last 10.
“It’s a gauntlet,” Niang said of the road ahead. “It’s going to be a grind. But it’s good preparation for us heading into the playoffs. I think our guys are well-rested from the All-Star break and ready to roll.”
Milton echoed Niang:
“I feel like this team has the ability to adapt however we need to, so whatever’s thrown at us, we’ll be ready to go.”
Following the All-Star break, the Sixers hold the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference, 2.5 games behind the No. 2 Bucks (41-17), which trail the No. 1 Celtics (42-17) by 0.5 games.
Ahead of the final leg of the season, Embiid is second in the NBA in scoring (33.1 ppg). James Harden leads the league in assists (10.8 apg), and De’Anthony Melton is fourth in the NBA in steals (1.7 spg).
As a team, the Sixers lead the league in free throw percentage (83.0% FT), and are fourth in the NBA in 3-point percentage (38.4 3fg) and Net rating (4.0).
Thursday’s matchup is a 7:30 p.m. tip.
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