Sixers aim to stop skid in matchup vs. Bulls
The Philadelphia 76ers have picked a bad time to wallow in their first three-game losing streak of the season.
The 76ers will try to halt their slide and maintain their hold on third place in the Eastern Conference when they visit the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.
Philadelphia is just 3-5 over its past eight games, which has allowed both the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers to creep within two games.
The 76ers have been sloppy on defense and have allowed an average of 126.7 points during the three-game skid, which includes losses to non-playoff foes Dallas and Atlanta as well as Thursday's 128-122 home loss to the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks.
Part of the problem for Philadelphia has been injury concerns as All-Star center Joel Embiid has missed 12 of the past 21 games while dealing with knee soreness.
Embiid played in the loss to the Bucks and had 34 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists for his second career triple-double. It was just his ninth appearance since the All-Star break.
He insisted after the contest that he will be full-go when the playoffs begin late next week.
"If that's what I'm asked to do, of course I'm going to do it," Embiid told reporters. "Nights like (Thursday), I've got to go back and take care of my body, make sure that I'm good. I gotta keep doing it. Whatever I'm asked to do, I'll provide."
Embiid was certainly rusty with his shooting in his first game action in seven days. He connected on just 12 of 31 shots.
76ers coach Brett Brown wasn't alarmed by the low shooting percentage.
"I think for the time that he hasn't played basketball, he had an amazing game," Brown told reporters. "He hasn't been with us for (seven) days, and you look at his stat line, it just confirms how dominant he can be.
"I think the thing we feel is we haven't been playing with each other. You feel uncertain a little bit, discombobulated at the end when it mattered most."
Small forward Jimmy Butler (back) is also ailing and could sit out for the third time in the past four games.
Philadelphia and Chicago split two meetings earlier this season and now play twice in five days.
The Bulls on the floor Friday will be different than earlier this season as the club has been ravaged by injuries.
Shooting guard Zach LaVine, who averaged 34.5 points in the two meetings with the 76ers, is expected to miss his eighth straight contest with a thigh injury. Small forward Otto Porter Jr. (shoulder) is slated to sit out for the ninth straight game while point guard Kris Dunn (back) will likely miss his sixth consecutive game.
Another starter, power forward Lauri Markkanen (exhaustion), was recently declared out for the season. Earlier in the campaign, rookie forwards Wendell Carter Jr. (thumb) and Chandler Hutchison (toe) suffered season-ending injuries, while guard Denzel Valentine (ankle) has missed the entire season.
The attrition has created opportunities for journeyman and G League players, and one who is taking advantage is 26-year-old Walt Lemon Jr.
Lemon scored a career-high 24 points in his third game with the Bulls as they posted a 115-114 road win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. Lemon made two free throws with 1.8 seconds for the winning points as Chicago halted a five-game slide.
"Nobody really expected me to be here and the fact the Bulls gave me the opportunity to play, let alone giving me a chance to win an NBA game, I can't ask for more than that," Lemon told reporters. "I'm grateful and humbled the coach would put the ball in my hands at that time. It shows he has confidence in me and increases my confidence in myself as well."
Lemon is averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 assists in three games since joining the Bulls.
--Field Level Media
Updated April 5, 2019