Minus two stars, Sixers brace for red-hot Suns

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Washington Wizards

The injury-riddled Philadelphia 76ers are already without All-Star Ben Simmons, who is scheduled for surgery on his partially dislocated left kneecap.

The health of All-Star center Joel Embiid is now also in question after he injured his left ankle on Sunday in the team’s three-point loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Embiid will not play Tuesday in the 76ers’ game against the Phoenix Suns near Orlando.

Embiid’s ankle looked to be trapped under the stanchion in the first quarter, and he limped to the locker room. Embiid eventually returned to the bench but never returned to the game.

“I do expect him to (play before playoffs), that’s just one man’s opinion,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “Nobody’s doing cartwheels over, ‘It’s something severe,’ but I do believe it would be good for him to play for the playoffs begin.”

The Sixers (42-28), currently seeded sixth in the Eastern Conference playoff race, will turn to Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Alec Burks among others for offense.

Against Portland, Richardson led the way with 34 points while Burks added 20. Harris scored 16 and Horford had 15. With their two stars sidelined, the whole team will need to contribute in order to win.

Despite the loss, the Sixers showed resilience against a surging team such as the Trail Blazers. The Suns are another hot team that will be difficult to slow.

“I thought our guys fought,” Brown said. “I really thought the spirit of the group was fantastic. We called upon many different players that I think played with a spirit and a passion that you’re proud of.”

Harris (right ankle soreness) and Horford (left knee soreness) are both listed as questionable.

The short-handed Sixers will be in for a daunting challenge against the surging Suns, who have won all six of their games in the bubble.

Phoenix was considered a longshot for a playoff berth in the Western Conference, but the winning streak has vaulted the team back into contention. The Suns are 32-39 and just a half-game behind Portland for ninth place and just one game behind Memphis for eighth place.

It’s possible that the Suns could work into the play-in bracket and a possible playoff berth.

The Suns thumped the Oklahoma City Thunder 128-101 on Monday behind 35 points from Devin Booker. Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson scored 18 points each as six Phoenix players reached double figures.

“We can only control how we prepare and how we work and execute,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said. “That’s the deal. We’re trying to put ourselves in a position to reach that ultimate goal, but we can’t do that unless we take care of where we are right now.”

Where they are is in position to keep their positive momentum rolling against the reeling Sixers. Booker continues to prove that he belongs among the elite players in the league.

“We said coming into this that we’re fine with being an under-the-radar team, that we’re going to come in here and work hard and try to get wins,” Booker said.

Booker shot 9 of 17 from the field against the Thunder, including 3 of 7 from 3-point range, and knocked down all 14 of his free throws.

–Field Level Media

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