PREVIEW: Shorthanded Houston Rockets aim to stop skid vs. struggling Philadelphia 76ers

New York Knicks trade for Ben Simmons
Feb 15, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) battles against Utah Jazz center Derrick Favors (15) in the second quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers will look to snap a three-game losing streak when they host the reeling Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

After a victory on the road against the Sacramento Kings, the Sixers dropped their final three games of the trip to the Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz.

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Joel Embiid was a late scratch with back tightness in Monday’s 134-123 loss to the Jazz, and the Sixers fell to 1-5 without him. Ben Simmons stepped up to complete his best game of the season with a career-high 42 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.

If Embiid is unable to play against the Rockets, the Sixers can take solace in the improvement Simmons has shown.

“There’s nights where I feel like I am dominant, but it may not look like a 40-point game,” Simmons said. “I might have a triple-double and we might win by 20, whatever the case is. It might be on defense. Yeah, I definitely had to pick up the slack with Joel out.”

Embiid has been performing at a level worthy of consideration for the league’s Most Valuable Player award. With him sidelined, Simmons simply changed his focus offensively.

“Honestly, I’ve been working on my mentality, my mental (game), a lot these past few weeks,” Simmons said. “I think my mindset … it’s not easy to do that, to change the way you play or certain things in the game that come natural to certain people. I feel like I’m figuring it out.”

Simmons became the first Sixer to post at least 40 points and 10 assists in a game since Allen Iverson in 2006. Tobias Harris also had a strong game against the Jazz with 36 points and 10 rebounds.

Related: If you’re a fan of the 76ers, check out #PhilaUnite rumors, rankings, and news here.

Philadelphia’s Shake Milton, a key reserve, missed the Utah game and is still questionable with a sore ankle.

The Rockets hope to avoid a seventh consecutive loss when they visit the Sixers.

In their most recent game, the Rockets fell 131-119 to the Washington Wizards despite John Wall’s 29 points and 11 assists.

But the Rockets’ roster has been severely depleted with Victor Oladipo, Christian Wood, Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker all out with injuries.

Tucker had his streak of 267 consecutive games played come to an end because of a bruised thigh. He had never missed a game with the Rockets and is considered day-to-day along with Gordon.

“It was tough,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said of not having Tucker. “For him not to play, you know he’s pretty banged up. It was a tough conversation to have. But he was the one. He was like, ‘Yeah, I can’t do it. I can’t move on the floor.’

“That’s admirable because he could have just fought through, maybe to the detriment of the team, but he was thinking about his long-term prognosis as well as what’s best for the group. That’s P.J.”

David Nwaba added 19 points and 11 rebounds while Jae’Sean Tate had 18 points in the loss to the Wizards. Being so short-handed, the Rockets will need all available players to contribute to have a shot at a tough road victory.

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With so many players sidelined, the task is daunting. Especially without Tucker, Wood and Oladipo, among others.

“We’ll see (about Wednesday) as we get closer,” Silas said of Oladipo.

–Field Level Media