The Philadelphia 76ers sit fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 38-21 record. They are 14-14 on the road and look to take down the Pelicans in the absence of Joel Embiid, who is nursing a sore knee. New Orleans is 26-34 for the season, but a solid 17-11 at home. Philadelphia won the first meeting between the teams last November by the score of 121-120.
In terms of statistical comparison, the teams are mirror images or each other. Both teams are excellent in scoring, Philadelphia ranked fourth and New Orleans fifth. They are also among the best in rebounding. On the flip side of the coin, the 76ers are 21st in points allowed, while the Pelicans are even worse, at 27th. Neither teams is careful with the ball, both ranking in the bottom third in turnovers.
The 76ers will have to make up for the 27 points and 13.5 rebounds from Embiid. Boban Marjanovic was excellent against the Heat starting for Embiid, scoring 19 with 12 rebounds in 27 minutes. Newly acquired Tobias Harris is averaging 18.8 points and hitting 39 percent from three-point range. This nearly mimic's Jimmy Butler's production and Butler has generally stepped up when needed. Veteran guard JJ Redick is enjoying his best season, averaging over 18 and hitting 39 percent from beyond the arc. The key could be Ben Simmons, who is capable of taking over a game with a triple-double. For the 76ers to truly contend, they will need more consistent play from their bench that includes Mike Scott, Jonathan Simmons and James Ennis.
Philadelphia will have to defend a potent trio of Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle. Davis leads the team at 27.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. Holiday drops nearly 21 and dishes out eight assists per game. Randle is also a handful on the boards and averages 20 per game. Another key could be the return of Elfrid Payton from injury. He provides a long range threat, hitting 37 percent from beyond the arc. The top sharp shooter, E'Twaun Moore (43 percent), could cause problems for a 76ers defense that has been shaky guarding the perimeter.
The 76ers are playing better on the road after a poor start, but without Embiid, it will be a tall order to take down the Pelicans. If Philadelphia gets improved bench play, they will win this game. However, there is little to suggest the switch will turn on for this game. The game will be close, but give the edge to New Orleans at home.