Grizzlies, 76ers look to stay afloat without stars
The Philadelphia 76ers will be searching for their third consecutive victory when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.
The Sixers won consecutive home games against the undermanned Miami Heat on Tuesday and Thursday, and they'll look to even their road record with a victory at Memphis.
Shake Milton came off the bench to score a season-high 31 points Thursday, Tobias Harris added 18 and Ben Simmons posted his 30th career triple-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.
But the news is not all good for the Sixers because All-Star Joel Embiid will not be traveling for Saturday's game, or Sunday at Oklahoma City, because of right knee pain. Embiid had only nine points and five rebounds against the Heat.
Seth Curry is still expected to be out due after a positive COVID-19 test. Reserves Mike Scott (knee) and Furkan Korkmaz (groin) also are out.
Simmons, who was mentioned in trade talks for James Harden before the guard was eventually sent from Houston to Brooklyn, is now going to be asked to take on a larger role with Embiid out.
"(Coach) Doc (Rivers) keeps it real with me," Simmons said. "He keeps it straight. He wants to see me get better, improve, stay in the gym and continue to work. The relationship is growing with that. I think so far, I've learned a lot."
Especially from Rivers.
"I think that goes down to even just professionalism," Simmons said of his head coach. "How I carry myself, the way I play, come out with energy, how that is going to affect others on the floor. If I come out, especially on the defensive end, playing great defense, I feel like my teammates are going to keep that same energy. It's gonna get us wins."
The Grizzlies started slow this season but have since won three in a row.
Memphis was supposed to play Friday but had its game postponed because the host Minnesota Timberwolves didn't have the mandatory eight players available because of health and safety protocols.
The Grizzlies could receive a major boost with the return of Ja Morant from a sprained left ankle suffered on Dec. 28. Morant was questionable before Friday's game was postponed.
Morant scored 72 points in his first two games, highlighted by a season-high 44 in the season opener against the San Antonio Spurs.
On Wednesday, the Grizzlies defeated the Timberwolves 118-107 with a franchise-record 80 points coming inside the paint. Jonas Valanciunas led the way with 24 points and 16 rebounds. Grayson Allen had 20 points and Brandon Clarke added 19.
"It just shows how tough we are," Clarke said. "There's some teams that rack up a bunch of losses when their best player goes down, but our team just has guys that play super hard. We have guys that can fight and get wins even when it's tough."
Allen, who averages 6.8 points per game, had a season high off the bench as the Grizzlies have been figuring out how to survive without Morant.
"It's always been next man up," Allen said. "We just have a bunch of hoopers on this team. It makes it easy to just get different groups in there and just play. We've got a bunch of guys playing the right way. It makes it easy."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 15, 2021