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Houston Rockets vs. Philadelphia 76ers game preview

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NBA: Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

These aren’t your barely older brother’s 6-76ers (h/t Xiane).

They’re not only winning, but they’re winning so much that “Raise the Cat” has become a thing that is happening. Yeah it’s weird, but they’ve lost so much in the past few seasons that it’s kind of sweet.

For years the Sixers have been mired in “The Process,” the code name given to the overt tank job instigated by former Sixers GM (and ex-Rockets Assistant GM) Sam Hinkie. While other NBA owners hated it (mostly because they didn’t want to see it succeed), the Sixers accumulated draft picks and assets that put Daryl Morey’s 2010-12 tenure look like child’s play. Hinkie had the green light to tank and boy did he take it.

Of course, Hinkie got run out of town by the organization right before the team finally landed the top pick and right before Joel Embiid and Dario Saric were to play their first NBA seasons. Suddenly, the Sixers are the talk of the league. And Sam Hinkie deserves all the credit.

As for tonight, the Rockets have their work cut out for them. Losers of two straight, Houston’s effort on defense has been disgusting. Of particular note in the paint, where the Rockets decided that giving up 58 points in the paint against Milwaukee just wasn’t enough. Therefore, they gave up 64 to the Celtics. There aren’t a lot of teams that can run the 5-out like the Celtics, but you can bet your bottom that every team is going to trot a lineup like that out against the Rockets for the rest of the season until Houston figures out how to defend it properly. Holy moly the Rockets were unprepared for that.

The good news for Houston is that the Sixers don’t have a stretch-5 that can hit 3s and pull the bigs out of the paint.

What’s that? You say Embiid can do that?

Well, then it’s good that he’s injured.

What’s that? You say he’s coming back tonight?

Okay fine. But at least the Sixers don’t have any decent shooters.

What’s that? You say seven of their rotation players shoot 35% or better from deep? And what’s that? Gerald Henderson shoots 40% and Ersan Ilyasova shoots 39%?

Well, shit.

Among the several things you should appreciate about the Sixers is that they went into Milwaukee and beat the same Bucks team that smacked the Rockets around. And they were without Embiid and Jahlil Okafor. They are now 10-3 in their last 13 contests, and have not lost a home game since December 20. The Rockets haven’t played a home game since December 20, but I’m not salty about this stupid road-heavy schedule or anything.

Houston can still salvage a decent record on this road trip, but tonight will be a test. The Sixers are young, good, and on a roll that has a lot of people in and out of Philly believing that they can make the playoffs. Plus, they still haven’t gotten a single minute from Ben Simmons. All they need now is a national audience to buy in and sure enough, tonight’s game is on the four-letter network. That’s a dangerous combination for the Rockets, who desperately need a win however they can manage it. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if it’s ugly. I don’t care if it takes Adrian telling the Rockets to “win.” They just need a win.

Okay, let’s talk about Embiid.

Just a few months ago, this video was hilarious. Now? Well, it’s still funny. If you don’t crack up at the “Oh my God, LeBron James is trash” line then I don’t know what to tell you. Today though, we’re getting much better videos from the man who calls himself “The Process.” He’s the best follow on social media and he is the true and worthy successor to the media love that’s been heaped (and heaped and heaped and heaped) upon Steph Curry. And he’s really good at basketball! He’s not Hakeem Olajuwon, and frankly that talk is sacrilege at this point. Sure he’s got some sweet moves and blocks shots, but call me when he wins an MVP or DPoY or blocks 3,830 shots. The point is: he’s a rookie. Don’t ask him to be Hakeem. Let him be Joel.

Also, more of these intros, please:

Finally, I know that trade ideas involving the Sixers is a favored pastime here at TDS, but please contain your trade ideas to Josh’s intelligent post about it, since I know you’re all going to include Brewer in any deal.

Tip-off is at 7pm on ESPN.

I want to try to make regional music a thing in future previews for road games, since I enjoyed looking at Memphis music so much. With Philadelphia, there are a ton of choices. Everyone knows Will Smith, but Philly was the birthplace or starting spot for several renowned artists including Patti LaBelle, The Roots, Joan Jett, Boyz II Men, Pink, Amos Lee, and the incomparable John Coltrane. There are also a few artists that I’m told are “hip” with the youngsters that I’ve never heard of: Meek Mill and Lil Uzi Vert. Those sound like real names I guess.

Anyway, I decided to go with a duo that’s a little less gritty than the stereotypical Philly vibe (and because I try to make sure all videos in previews are safe for work), so I picked Hall & Oates.