The Philadelphia 76ers open the second half of their schedule on Thursday in Chicago, but they will not have All-Star and MVP second-betting favorite Joel Embiid nor fellow All-Star Ben Simmons because both remain in COVID-19 protocols that forced them to miss this past Sunday’s All-Star Game. The Bulls will thus be short favorites on the NBA odds. Philadelphia plays again Friday at Washington. Embiid is expected back against the Wizards but Simmons will not be.
Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons out Thursday | 2021 NBA Expert AnalysisBefore Embiid and Simmons left Philadelphia for Atlanta last weekend for the All-Star Game, they both got a haircut from the same barber – who would test positive for COVID-19. That put both players on the COVID protocols, forcing them to miss the All-Star Game, although neither has tested positive.
Perhaps Simmons got his haircut a day later and that’s why he already has been ruled out for Friday, while Embiid can return assuming he continues to test negative. Shake Milton or Tyrese Maxey likely will move into the starting lineup for the next two games in place of Simmons and probably Dwight Howard in place of Embiid on Thursday.
Embiid is currently the +220 second-favorite on the NBA odds to win his first regular-season MVP Award, just behind the Lakers’ LeBron James (+175) – although other sportsbooks to have Embiid first and LeBron second. Embiid is averaging 30.2 points and 11.6 rebounds. He has missed six games and the Sixers are 1-5 in those games.
Simmons is averaging 16.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.6 assists. He has missed five games and the Sixers are 2-3. The Sixers have played just one game this season without both Simmons and Embiid, a 115-103 home loss on Jan. 9 to the Denver Nuggets.
The Sixers beat the Bulls on Feb. 19 112-105 in Philadelphia in their only meeting thus far. Embiid had maybe the game of his career with career-best 50 points to go along with 17 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and two steals. Tobias Harris added 22 points and 12 rebounds for the 76ers, who didn’t have Simmons for that game due to an unrelated illness. All-Star Zach LaVine scored 30 points for the Bulls. It was Philadelphia’s fifth straight win in the series.
Chicago reportedly will get two reinforcements back Thursday in forward Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter. Markkanen is averaging 19.6 points and 6.2 rebounds this season but hasn’t played since Feb. 5 due to a shoulder injury. Porter hasn’t played since Feb. 1 due to a shoulder injury. He’s averaging 11.6 points this season.
Blake Griffin Should Debut With Celtics ThursdayIn one of Thursday’s marquee games, the Brooklyn Nets host the Boston Celtics and it should be the Nets debut of six-time All-Star Blake Griffin. He signed with the team early this week after agreeing to a buyout with the Detroit Pistons. Griffin reportedly chose the Nets over the Heat, Lakers and Celtics.
At the end of it, I narrowed it down to four teams so all four are great teams and organizations but like I keep saying, I tried to make the best decision.” Griffin said. “My only goal is to help win a championship. Some years it’s more realistic than others. But that’s why I came to Brooklyn.”
Griffin also came because the Nets have become a contender with dire front-court depth needs. After forward Kevin Durant and center DeAndre Jordan, the only proven big man is Jeff Green, and he’s undersized to play center.
Griffin said he’s was told by Coach Steve Nash that expects to play small ball center as well as his traditional role as a power forward. In the 2020-21 season, Griffin played in 20 games with the Pistons, averaging 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 31.3 minutes per game. Since making his debut in the 2010-11 season, Griffin ranks ninth in the league in field goals made (5,130), 10th in points (13,724) and 15th in rebounds (5,605).
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