The Houston Rockets (39-25) seek seven-straight wins tonight while hosting Ben Simmons and the (41-25) Philadelphia 76’ers. When these east-west rivals met Jan. 21 from the Wells Fargo Center, Joel Embiid’s 32 point, 14 rebound effort sparked a decisive 121-93 Philadelphia romp. After the blowout, Embiid, who has a deep competitive fued with Harden, stated “It was really fun for us (Philadelphia), Don’t think it was fun for them (Houston).” The Rockets’ 28-point setback vs. Philly is Houston’s most lopsided defeat this season. NBA leading-scorer James Harden added 37 points in 31 minutes vs. the 76’ers, however, Houston shot 36% FG while struggling from deep (11-of-42).
Tonight, the status of Embiid, who hasn’t played since the All Star break for precautionary reasons, remains unclear. Regarding his availability, Embiid stated “It’s all about long-term preservation and making sure I’m ready not just for the playoffs, but also for the next 15 years.” When the versatile ‘unicorn’ Embiid sits, Philly’s chances straight up and against the spread suffer — the Sixers are 4-6 SU and 3-7 ATS this season minus Embiid.
Currently fourth in a three-four-five logjam in the Eastern standings, Brett Brown’s men have split their last four games. Most recently, the Sixers were stunned late, 108-107 by the 19-47 Chicago Bulls. Philadelphia’s usually reliable three-point attack fell short (8-of-24) while Bulls leading-scorer Zach LaVine added 39 points. If Embiid (13.5 RPG) sits tonight, Philadelphia will concede a large rebounding edge, and the extra possessions which go with it, against a steamrolling Houston perimeter attack.
Peaking for the stretch run, since Feb. 25 Houston’s 16.9 3PM ranks second league wide. Infused with confidence, the Rockets dialed up their two-way intensity, while making 45% from deep Tuesday vs. Eastern Conference stahlwart Toronto. Harden had 35 points as Houston claimed another signature win during the team’s recent unbeaten march. Houston standouts Gerald Green (18), Austin Rivers (13), and Eric Gordon (13) buoyed the Beard’s efforts in the Rockets’ telling 107-95 victory over Toronto. During their noted winning streak, Houston’s downed opponents include Golden State, Boston, and Toronto —the latter two in succession.
-Houston is 22-9 SU at home
-Philly is 16-15 SU away
-Philly is 13-18 ATS away
-Houston is 19-11-1 ATS at home
-Philly averages 115.4 ppg
-Houston averages 113.3 ppg
-Philly allows 112.1 ppg
-Houston allows 110.8 ppg
Houston hopes to keep alive its hegemony vs. upper-tier Eastern competition tonight. Again, though, Embiid’s playing status is paramount to which team should, and will, win this anticipated rematch. If The Process errs on the side of caution, and stifles his uber-competitive drive, -remember his double technical with Harden Jan. 21?- the Rockets will win eight-consecutive. If Embiid plays, the equation muddies. But even with Embiid in the fray, can he regain synergy with his teammates quick enough to upend the NBA’s hottest team? Tonight’s keyword is momentum: Houston has it, while Philadelphia hopes to find it. And while Philly searches for winning answers, Houston will be one step ahead at home.
FINAL SCORE: Houston- 112 Philadelphia- 106