SAN FRANCISCO, CA – For a franchise that one day hopes for a future filled with sustained success and multiple banners, the first chance to measure itself against the modern day model has arrived.
Saturday at Oracle Arena, the 76ers will make the third stop on their season-long five-game Western Conference trip by paying a visit to the Golden State Warriors (8:30 PM EST; NBC Sports Philadelphia, 97.5 FM The Fanatic / Sixers Radio Network).
No new territory is being covered by reviewing Golden State’s dominance in recent years. Over the last three completed regular seasons, the Warriors have compiled a 207-39 record, en route to three Western Conference titles, and two league championships, the most recent coming this past June. The Dubs’ win total during this stretch exceeds those generated by the Chicago Bulls during three-peat runs from 1991 through 1993 (185 wins), and 1996 through 1998 (203).
This fall, Golden State is off to a 9-3 start, and leads the NBA in: offensive rating (116.2 points per 100 possessions), net rating (14.2), field goal percentage (51.6), assists per 100 possessions (30.3), blocks per 100 possessions (8.6), and fast break points per 100 possessions (26.6). The Warriors are second in the league in 3-pointers made (165) and 3-point percentage (40.8), while topping all clubs in catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage (43.1), and catch-and-shoot points per game (39.1).
Steph Curry (25.4 ppg) and Klay Thompson (20.9 ppg) have each hit 44 triples, second-most since the season began. Kevin Durant (24.8 ppg) is 10th in the league in scoring, three slots behind Curry.
“It should be entertaining,” Brett Brown said of Saturday’s pairing, as his team bids for a sixth win in seven tries. “We’re going in there excited to play.”
When scanning statistical rankings from this season, however, it’s worth noting that the upstart Sixers aren’t too far behind Golden State in several significant categories, particularly in respect to perimeter shooting and passing.
Through 11 games, the Sixers are sixth in the NBA in threes (138), third in 3-point percentage (40.0), second in catch-and-shoot points per game (36.8), third in catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage (42.1), and actually rank just ahead of the Warriors with a league-best 11.4 catch-and-shoot threes made per game.
The Sixers pace the NBA in passes made (350.5; Golden State averages 310.1 per game), and are second behind Saturday’s opponent in assists per 100 possessions (24.7).
“We’re playing future Hall of Famers, All-Stars, and champions,” Ben Simmons said Friday. “It’s going to be a tough one. We really got to step up and focus on the game plan, and stick to it.”
Saturday will mark the first time that the rookie Simmons faces Golden State. Same goes for Joel Embiid. The big man, now in his second season, missed both games against the Warriors last year.
Embiid is especially eager to take the floor with two-time All-Star Draymond Green (10.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 6.7 apg), the jack-of-all trades Golden State forward who plays with a spirited personality. After meeting for the first time this summer, and subsequently exchanging numbers, Embiid told reporters Friday the two have engaged in some “friendly trash talk.”
“I love doing that, so I’m excited,” said Embiid.
From a tactical standpoint, both the Sixers and Warriors boast personnel that’s capable of creating mismatches. For instance, who from Golden State will guard Simmons? Maybe Curry, or perhaps Green, Durant, or a combination of the three? The same question could be inverted, and asked of the Sixers. Which player(s) will handle the likes of Curry and Green?
Regardless of how the Sixers approach this situation, Brown thinks Simmons’ versatility will help.
“I’m going to try to do my thing,” said Simmons. “Defensively, whoever they put me on, it’s going to be a good test.”
Simmons said Saturday’s match-up with Golden State, who the Sixers will then host next Saturday at The Center, should offer an opportunity to see how an elite, proven team carries itself. Brown doesn’t expect his young group to get caught up in the moment.
“Nobody’s going in there looking for autographs,” said the head coach. “We’re going in there to play basketball, and compete, and improve from where we were against Sacramento.”
Let’s take a brief look at the latest with Golden State (9-3). On the heels of a 1-2 start, which included a one-point loss to the Houston Rockets and 10-point setback to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Warriors have won eight of their last 10 outings, the lone exception being an eight-point defeat to the Detroit Pistons. The Dubs’ latest victory came Wednesday, when they rolled past the previously-surging Minnesota Timberwolves, 125-101. That night, Kevin Durant was sidelined with a left thigh contusion. Golden State announced Friday the eight-time All-Star is probable to play the Sixers.
• Video: NBC Sports Philadelphia / NBC Sports app
• Audio: 97.5 FM The Fanatic / Sixers Radio Network
Check back later for a full game preview.