Three of the most special big men in the NBA will share the floor on Sunday evening in New Orleans.
Two of those guys, of course, play for the home team. Anthony Davis made his return from a groin injury on Friday after missing three games. He played 31 minutes and put up a quiet 12 and six. His teammate DeMarcus Cousins carried most of the load against his former team, scoring 38 points on 30 attempts from the field against his former team. Sacramento got the best of New Orleans 116–109 in the Big Easy.
The 76ers are playing the second night of a back-to-back but Joel Embiid will suit up and play. Brett Brown decided to rest Embiid last night in the first game in Cleveland, instead of taking on the Pelicans’ two towers without his center. It was looking like a brilliant move until the Cavaliers stormed back from a five-point deficit with less than five minutes to play to end up winning by seven at the Q.
Between those three bigs and two solid teams coming off of some bad losses, this one should be a competitive and high-level game. The Pelicans are 4.5-point favorites.
Philadelphia hasn’t just suffered the Cleveland loss lately. The Sixers have lost three in a row, the first two of which came at home to Phoenix and then the Lakers. A fourth-straight loss will send the Sixers back to .500 for the first time since losing two in a row to drop to 6–6 a month ago.
Philly was without Dario Saric for the losses against the Suns and Lakers but he returned to play in Cleveland last night, despite reports saying he would miss the game earlier in the day. We have to assume he plays tonight too but it also wouldn’t be completely surprising if the Sixers were cautious with him on the back-to-back. The other injury concern is Robert Covington, who was playing a splendid game in Cleveland last night before diving into the stands after a loose ball with a minute to go in the game and knocking his head on a sharp edge. Covington stayed down for several minutes and was apparently in a lot of pain after the game but it also appears that he didn’t sustain a significant injury either. I doubt he’ll miss time unless there’s serious swelling but it’s something to keep an eye on going into the game.
The Pelicans, meanwhile, lost to the Kings at home before their Head Coach ripped them after the game for a lack of effort. Alvin Gentry’s comments to the media have no doubt gotten back to his team, which should be a little extra focused tonight and will, at the very least, give a better effort in front of its home crowd.
Either Cousins or Davis can matchup with Embiid but that leaves the other with a serious mismatch to exploit when Philadelphia is on defense. The Sixers usually go small with Saric at the four but that won’t work in this game. New Orleans’ guards have been playing a lot better with Rajon Rondo on the ball and Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore playing on the wings in catch-and-shoot action. On paper, these two teams are pretty darn even but between the Sixers coming in after a game last night and the Pelicans’ effort on Friday, I like New Orleans to play better on its home floor and win this game by seven to ten points.
Free Pick: New Orleans -4.5