Sixers-Bulls: 5 things you need to know

sixers-bulls-matchup.jpg

Sixers-Bulls: 5 things you need to know

The Sixers (15-52) return home to face the Chicago Bulls (37-30) on Wednesday night after setting the franchise record with 21 consecutive losses.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. (CSN) at the Wells Fargo Center.

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. A game of 21
Now what?

The Sixers suffered a 99-90 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers on Monday to set the franchise mark for consecutive defeats with 21. They surpassed the previous record of 20 straight losses set by the 1972-73 squad.

Next on the club's docket could be the NBA record for losses in a row at home. The Sixers have already dropped a franchise-worst 16 straight at the Wells Fargo Center and are creeping up on the league record of 19 set by the 1993-94 Dallas Mavericks.

The Sixers could take that next false step against a tough Bulls squad on Wednesday. Despite splitting their last eight games overall, the Bulls trampled the Sixers by 25 points the last time the two teams met on Jan. 18.

2. No Joakim around
Joakim Noah enjoys dominating the Sixers.

Whether it's because a few Philadelphia fans cheered when he got injured during a playoff series a couple years back or because he simply knows he can take advantage of a weak frontcourt, Noah takes pleasure in torturing the Sixers.

In two games against the Sixers this season, Noah is averaging 15.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.5 blocks and 2.0 steals. Overall, the center has scored at least 21 points in three of his last four games against them.

Henry Sims has proven to be a capable defender in the paint, but a motivated Noah might be too much to handle.

3. Downright offensive
The Sixers have struggled to score during their losing skid and it won't get any easier against the gritty Bulls.

Anchored by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Noah, the Bulls are second in the NBA in points allowed with 92.3 a game. They are also second in opponents' shooting percentage at 43.1.

The Sixers' once high-octane offense has sputtered during the team's 21-game skid. They are averaging 95.0 points over that stretch. Plus, the Sixers rank 27th in field goal percentage (43.1) and 30th in three-point percentage (30.7) this season.

All of that should add up to the Sixers' having a difficult time finding the bottom of the net on Wednesday night.

4. Injuries
James Anderson (thigh) missed the Sixers' game against the Pacers and is day to day.

Nerlens Noel (knee) and Jason Richardson (knee) are out for the Sixers.

Tornike Shengelia (flu) is day to day.

Derrick Rose (knee) remains out for the season.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have not won since beating the Boston Celtics on Jan. 29.

• The Sixers have averaged just 90.3 points in their last four home games.

• Chicago finished its recent six-game homestand with a 3-3 mark and now hits the road, where it's 16-17 this season.

• The Bulls shot 48.8 percent in their last game against the Sixers.

• One of the Sixers' eight home wins this season came over the Bulls on Nov. 2.

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Richaun Holmes

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Richaun Holmes

Richaun Holmes

Position: Center

Status for 2017-18: Under contract for $1,471,382

Holmes in 2016-17
This year very well could have been a lost season for Richaun Holmes. The 23-year-old center was fourth on the Sixers' depth chart to begin the season, sitting behind top-10 picks Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. Cracking the lineup, even with Embiid not playing back-to-backs and Noel hurt to start the year, was a daunting task.

Early in the season, Holmes provided solid minutes when he received them, reeling in 12 rebounds in a win vs. the Pacers on Nov. 11 and picking up 11 points and eight boards against the Nuggets on Dec. 5. However, Holmes was sent to the D-League soon after and with centers excelling ahead of him, it seemed his time in Philly may be numbered.

But then Embiid got hurt. This opened the door for consistent playing time for the former second-round pick and he shined. He averaged 7.1 points and 4.8 rebounds in 17.9 minutes during February, then shot up to 14.1 points and 6.8 rebounds over 26.4 minutes in March after Noel was traded. He put up 14 games with double-figure scoring despite eclipsing 30 minutes only four times. 

In all, Holmes proved himself to be a force off the bench for the Sixers, as well as when he got into the starting lineup. In 57 games, he started 17 and averaged 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds, both increases from his rookie season. He upped his field goal percentage to 55.8 percent and became a viable three-point threat, shooting 35.1 percent, up from 18.2 percent as a rookie. Holmes finished the year with five straight games in double figures as he was one of the only healthy players left on the roster.

Signature game
Soon after returning from the D-League in January, he put up 18 points on 8 for 11 shooting against the Clippers in a win. He also had a double-double against the Wizards in late February after the trade deadline.

However, his signature game is one of two. He had 24 points, 14 rebounds and five assists against the Magic on March 20, giving a tremendous effort over 42 minutes. Nine days later, he had 25 points — a career-high — while facing off against Dwight Howard and the Atlanta Hawks, earning the praise of the veteran center (see below).

Looking ahead to 2017-18
It may have seemed unlikely in early January, but Holmes is likely a rotation piece for the Sixers next season. Noel is gone, Okafor may follow soon and Embiid may have trouble with back-to-backs again next season, although president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo has indicated otherwise. That opens the door for a lot of playing time, including more starts, for the Bowling Green product. 

The Sixers may bring in veteran help at center if Okafor is dealt, but it likely won't deter the 6-foot-10 forward in securing a role for next season. He proved too valuable at the end of the season. The energy Holmes provides is a necessary element to a second-unit and something the Sixers will gladly take next season.

On Holmes
"He's a kid that I remember the first time he stepped on the court with me, he was just like excited. He kept saying, 'Wow, I'm on the floor with Dwight Howard.' He just kept saying he was excited. Just to see his growth from that moment, he plays with such passion, it's great to see especially from a young guy like him. I'm proud of him."

- Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard

"He just sat there and accepted whatever we gave him: go to the D-League, sit there and clap, start, play behind Joel — whatever it was, he accepted. And he did it where it didn't diminish his work ethic, it didn't diminish his ability to coexist within a team. He found ways to improve individually, and he did it with a great level of maturity."

- Sixers head coach Brett Brown

NBA Playoffs: Raptors advance past Bucks despite blowing 25-point lead

NBA Playoffs: Raptors advance past Bucks despite blowing 25-point lead

MILWAUKEE -- DeMar DeRozan scored 32 points and the Toronto Raptors squandered a 25-point lead late in the third quarter before holding on for a 92-89 victory Thursday night over the Milwaukee Bucks to take their first-round playoff series in six games.

Cory Joseph had five points in a 9-0 run in the final 2 minutes, including a 3-pointer with 1:27 left, to help stave off the pesky Bucks.

The Raptors move on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals in a series that starts Monday. They'll need to work on finishing off opponents in the second half.

Jason Terry's 3 with 3:06 left gave the Bucks an 80-78 lead, completing an unlikely comeback from the 25-point deficit with 5:16 left in the third quarter. The Raptors looked as if they were on cruise control after DeMarre Carroll's 3 gave them the 71-46 advantage.

Giannis Antetokounmpo spearheaded the second-half rally for Milwaukee. He had 34 points.

But the Bucks finished one comeback short.

The furious effort appeared to sap the energy of the young Bucks. Even Antetokounmpo, a renowned gym rat, looked tired with his hands on hips as he caught his breath during fourth-quarter breaks. He played 47 minutes.

Antetokounmpo finished 13 of 23 from the field but was 2 of 6 in the fourth.

The Raptors could finally breathe easy after DeRozan went 2 of 2 from the foul line with 3.1 seconds to play for a three-point lead. Tony Snell's inbounds pass on the ensuing possession was intercepted by DeRozan (see full recap).

Spurs advance: San Antonio beats Grizzlies in Game 6
NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points, helping the San Antonio Spurs advance to the Western Conference semifinals by beating the Memphis Grizzlies 103-96 Thursday night to take the series 4-2.

The Spurs now have beaten Memphis four of the five playoff series between these teams, and this was San Antonio's second straight win over the Grizzlies in the first round.

Tony Parker added 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting, while LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 12 rebounds. Patty Mills had 10 points off the bench for the Spurs. San Antonio outrebounded Memphis 46-28, with 16 of those offensive boards. That led to 17 second-chance points.

Their semifinal with Houston will start Monday night in San Antonio.

Mike Conley scored 26 points, leading the five Memphis starters in double digits. Marc Gasol added 18, Zach Randolph 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Vince Carter had 12 points (see full recap).