Down 2 starters, Sixers seeking a win before long road trip

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The 28-13 Sixers have a half-game lead over the second-place Nets in the Eastern Conference standings. And, for the first time since the All-Star break, they’ve had two days in between games.

Here are the essentials for their Saturday night matchup with the 17-24 Kings: 

  • When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 p.m. 
  • Where: Wells Fargo Center 
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus 
  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Plenty of production to replace 

Seth Curry (left ankle sprain) and Joel Embiid (left knee bone bruise) are both out. Curry will be re-evaluated after the Sixers conclude their back-to-back Sunday against the Knicks, while Embiid will be re-evaluated in a week. Ben Simmons was listed as probable on the 5:30 p.m. injury report with left knee soreness.

Embiid and Curry combined to score 47 of the Sixers’ 119 points in their win over Sacramento on Feb. 9. The Sixers will hope Tobias Harris is well-rested and knocks down open jumpers after playing nearly 44 minutes against Milwaukee and shooting 0-for-7 in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle and Shake Milton appear the three likeliest options to replace Curry. Tony Bradley has been starting in Embiid’s place, though Dwight Howard has closed games and played more than the 23-year-old. Howard has posted double-doubles in each of the last two games.

Dealing with Kings’ three starting guards 

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers’ thinking on Curry’s replacement might be influenced by how the Kings have changed their starting lineup since Marvin Bagley suffered a hand fracture. Sacramento has been starting the guard trio of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and rookie Tyrese Haliburton.

The Sixers struggled to guard those three in the first half of their February matchup against the Kings. Both Simmons and Thybulle defended Fox well, but the Sixers will need to be diligent about transition defense all night and also focus on limiting Sacramento’s other perimeter threats.

“We’ve just got to have better discipline,” Rivers said Friday of the Sixers’ transition defense. “We showed a couple (plays) where the shot was in the air. On the release of the shot you should be getting back, but we’re watching the action to see if we get an offensive rebound, and then we get back in the action. We have to be back. We gave up a big layup (to the Bucks) —  two of them, actually — because we didn’t get back. I don’t think it has anything to do with injury in this case. I think it has to do with discipline.”

Long road trip on the horizon 

It’s quite possible the Sixers will have a different roster when they next play at Wells Fargo Center. The team has three games remaining before the NBA trade deadline, which is next Thursday at 3 p.m. ET, and is about to embark on a six-game road trip. 

Even after Wednesday night’s overtime loss to the Bucks, the Sixers have an 18-4 home record, best in the East. They’re 10-9 away from Wells Fargo Center following three consecutive road wins, already two victories from matching their number of away wins last season (12-26).

Danny Green likes the idea of a long trip as an opportunity for the team to further gel, although that looming deadline is hard to ignore. 

“We had a good first half of the season getting to know each other. … We’ve had some time away, a chance to miss each other a little bit, and it helps when we come back with a fresh start — mentally locked in better, and guys are refreshed and ready to regroup,” Green said Friday. “Now that we have a long road trip, I think it’s good timing for it."

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