The following storylines were ones that emerged from the Sixers’ morning shootaround on Thursday, April 6th. They play the Chicago Bulls at The Center at 7:00 PM EST.
• As has been the case the Sixers’ past two games, Dario Saric will be placed on a 24-minute playing time guideline when the team hosts Chicago Thursday night. Since the recommendation went into effect Sunday in Toronto, Saric has logged 23 and 19 minutes, respectively, against the Raptors and Nets. Previously, he had gone 24 games in a row without playing fewer than 25 minutes.
Sergio Rodriguez is set to miss a sixth consecutive contest due to his left hamstring injury. The 30-year old point guard is expected to be re-evaluated Friday, at which point the team will make a determination about Rodriguez’s status for the remaining three games of the season.
Tiago Splitter and Gerald Henderson have both been listed as probable for Thursday’s four-game season series finale versus the Bulls.
• It’s only been two weeks since the Sixers and Chicago last faced one another. The March 24th meeting at United Center swayed heavily in the Sixers’ favor, as they bullied the Bulls for a season-high 70 points in the paint, and a 117-110 victory.
Thursday, the Sixers will be aiming to beat Chicago in consecutive games in the same season for the first time since the 2010-2011 campaign.
“That’s a tough team, they’re playing for a playoff spot,” said Gerald Henderson, who tallied 14 points and five rebounds in the Windy City two weeks ago, when the Bulls’ odds of clinching a post-season berth seemed long. “We just got after them. I think defensively we did a good job. Obviously, Jimmy Butler had a good game, but we were able to try to contain the other guys, and push the tempo.”
Although Butler went for 36 points, seven boards, 11 assists, and three steals in 42 minutes, Chicago collectively shot 40.7 percent from the field. The Bulls’ four other starters didn’t do much, combining for 22 points.
The Sixers, meanwhile, received contributions from a variety of sources. Dario Saric established a career-high in scoring with 32 points, as did Shawn Long, who not only registered 18 points and seven rebounds, but a massive plus-31 rating.
“I thought we played extremely tough that game, from the jump,” said Long, who was very much a part of the Sixers muscling out a season-best 70 points in the paint that night. “It paid off for us. Hopefully, we can do the same tonight.”
• As Gerald Henderson pointed out, Jimmy Butler indeed had a fine game against the Sixers the last time around, despite Chicago’s one-sided defeat. His other two outings versus the Sixers this season have been pretty good, too.
In the Bulls’ 105-89 win at The Center on November 25th, Butler produced 26 points (10-15 fg), four rebounds, and three steals. About two months later at United Center, he netted 28 points, behind 12 for 15 shooting from the foul line, while also supplying eight boards, seven dimes, and four steals. Chicago won the game, 121-108.
“He’s tough,” said Henderson of Butler. “He can score in multiple ways. He likes to get to the basket. I think that’s the best thing he does, but really, just like any good scorer, you want him to shoot a contested two.”
Henderson mentioned another key as well – that the Sixers need to keep Butler off the foul line. The three-time All-Star ranks fourth in the NBA in free throws made (557) and attempted (647).
“He’s a tough guard,” Henderson said. “Everybody’s got to kind of be locked in on him, and rely on your help, and hope he misses.”
• In summing up the Sixers’ 23-point loss to Brooklyn Tuesday, Brett Brown put things simply.
“Sometimes, over 82 games, games like this happen,” said the 16-year NBA coaching veteran.
That attitude seems to have filtered down to some of the players on the roster as well.
After Thursday’s shootaround, Shawn Long indicated the Sixers were ready to move on from a setback that marked the start of their current four-game homestand.
“It’s a long season,” Long said. “Not every game’s going to be perfect. Sometimes, you got to let it go behind. Luckily, there’s 82 games in the season, and we got another one tonight. We got to brush that one off.”
Long matched a career-high Tuesday with 18 points. He also had six rebounds and two assists in just 17 minutes.