The Oklahoma City Thunder continues its road trip against Philadelphia tonight, a 6 p.m. CT tip. The Thunder welcomes back defensive stalwart Andre Roberson to the starting lineup. Roberson will play limited minutes after missing the past two games with a left ankle sprain.
OKC has won five-of-seven while the Sixers are 2-5 in their last seven. Philly star Joel Embiid is questionable due to back tightness and he’s missed two out of their last three games. Still, Embiid is a force to reckon with when he’s on the court. Clean the Glass’ Ben Falk notes the Sixers are playing like a 62-win team with Embiid on the court and a 19-win team when he’s off. Philly’s offensive rating goes up +16.5 when The Process is on the floor.
The only time Embiid has faced the Thunder was during last year’s season opener in Philadelphia. It was his career debut, which came two years after the Sixers picked him third overall in the 2014 draft. That night Embiid scored 20 points in 22 minutes but was just 6-for-16 from the field with seven rebounds and four fouls. Russell Westbrook posted a 32-point, 12-rebound and nine-assist night despite a run-in with a double-bird-waving Sixers fan.
Things have changed quite a bit since that 2016-17 opener. The Thunder added Paul George and Carmelo Anthony and traded Philadelphia for Jerami Grant. The Sixers drafted Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick, added J.J. Redick in free agency and, most notably, have a healthy Ben Simmons for the first time since drafting him No. 1 in 2016.
Simmons has been a huge success, averaging 17.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.7 assists as a 21-year-old rookie.
Luckily for the Thunder, having Roberson and George in the lineup allows them to match up with 6-foot-10 point guards like Simmons. Having Roberson greatly boosts OKC’s rebounding – the Thunder’s total rebounding percentage is +12.3 percent with Roberson on the court vs. when he’s off.
The Thunder will conclude its road trip in New York on Saturday. The second night of the back-to-back will be Carmelo Anthony’s first return to the Big Apple as a member of the Thunder.