Game Preview | Matinee vs Thunder Marks Marquee Match Up

by Lauren Rosen

Scene Setter:

The 76ers (30-16) will aim to keep momentum alive as they host the Oklahoma City Thunder (26-18) for the first and only time this season Saturday at The Center.

The Sixers have won three in a row, and seven of their last nine.

This strong streak could not be more timely. Saturday’s matchup marks the second of 11 games in the coming weeks against playoff-seeded opponents.

“We’re under the microscope a lot as it relates to this portion of our season,” Brett Brown said. “It doesn’t get any easier as time unfolds.”

If you’re looking under the microscope, you’re seeing good things.

The Sixers’ last two outings have yielded two of their best performances this season: a 149-107 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, followed by a 1290-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers. The team assisted on 40 of 55 field goals against the Wolves, and 38 of 46 baskets Thursday in Indianapolis.

Now averaging 27.5 assists per game, the Sixers are second in the league in that category, trailing only the Golden State Warriors (28.8 apg). The Sixers, however, pace the NBA with an assist percentage of 66.2.

“I think everybody’s just buying in and really trying to get better,” said Ben Simmons, who, along with his four fellow starters, has reached double-figures in scoring each of the last two games. “We’re having fun out there.”

Heading into Saturday’s matinee, Oklahoma City is second in the league in rebounds per game (49.1).

Ever unafraid, Joel Embiid said he’s looking forward to facing off with the Thunder frontcourt.

“They’ve been playing really well. It’s going to be a tough matchup. I love playing against Steven (Adams), physical guy, I like that contact.”

Adams averages 10.1 rebounds per game, while Embiid averages 13.3 (fifth in the league).

Last season, the Sixers lost both meetings with the Thunder, including a triple-overtime thriller at The Center.

“[Saturday] is an important game,” Embiid said. “In situations like that—I’m going to want to get that win.”

Opponent Outlook:

The Thunder’s defense has been one of the league’s best this season, ranking second in defensive rating (104.0 points allowed per 100 possessions), and first overall in steals per game (10.3). Five-time All-Star Paul George is averaging a career-high 26.6 points per game, while Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double (21.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 10.7 apg) for the third consecutive season. That being said, the team has dropped five of its last six.

Follow Along:

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