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Why struggling Warriors could be catching 76ers at perfect time

Why struggling Warriors could be catching 76ers at perfect time originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – As crazy as it sounds, the Warriors might be facing the Philadelphia 76ers at the right time when the two teams play Tuesday at Chase Center.

Philadelphia is one of the top teams in the entire NBA and is sitting in the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference.

But things are not all well in the City of Brotherly Love.

The reigning NBA MVP and a leading contender to repeat this season, Joel Embiid, has missed the Sixers’ last two games, including Monday’s clash in Portland, with a knee injury. Likewise, Tyrese Maxey, who might be Philadelphia’s most improved player this season, has been plagued by an ankle injury that has prevented him from playing in the team’s previous two games.

Obviously Philadelphia is a much different player without those two. For Golden State, which has had all sorts of defensive problems this season, that could open the door for the team to get back on track following back-to-back heartbreaking one-point losses to the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers.

Embiid is clearly the 76ers; main weapon, but Maxey has improved his game significantly and is one of Philadelphia’s top playmakers after the team traded James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers earlier in the 2023-24 NBA season.

Although his shooting numbers have fallen off in the past few weeks, Maxey leads the NBA in average minutes played and is averaging career highs in points (25.7), assists (6.6) and rebounds (3.6).

Maxey wasn’t named to the All-Star team, but many people around the NBA expect him to be added to the East squad when reserves are announced later this week.

“He’s got great speed and shooting range. That combination means you have a lot of court to cover,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Monday. “When he attacks close-outs, he gets to the rim, he can finish. He’s very difficult to stay in front of. He draws a lot of fouls. He’s really become a hell of a player.”

If Maxey is cleared to play, his matchup with Warriors guard Stephen Curry should be quite intriguing.

The two have squared off four times previously, with Curry holding a three-games-to-one edge.

Curry clearly has gotten the best of Maxey when paired up. The Warriors’ leading play-maker averaged 30.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.8 assists in the four matchups. Maxey, on the other hand, had mediocre stats of 16 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists during that stretch.

This season, both players have been explosive at times.

Curry is coming off a season-high 46-point game in Saturday's loss to the Lakers and has been held under 20 points in only six of the 40 games he has played in this season. Curry tallied 49 against the 76ers during the 2020-21 season.

Maxey has reached double-digits in all but one of the 42 games he has played in this season and scored a career-high 50 points against the Indiana Pacers in November.

It might not matter at all, however, if Maxey can’t play.

The same can be said of Embiid, who needs to get back into the 76ers' lineup soon in order to remain eligible for the MVP award.

Simply put, he has been, is, and will continue to be a monster to contain when he’s healthy.

“You don’t really contain Joel Embiid,” Green said Monday. “Joel presents a lot of challenges. He is probably the largest, by mass, person we have in the NBA. Yet he’s probably one of the most nimble, best ball skills, scoring threats that we have. Any move that guards can do, he can do.”

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