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Bulls vs. Sixers game preview and open thread

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Joel Embiid will play this time

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls (18-29) at Philadelphia 76ers (22-21)

6 p.m., WGN

Injury Report:

Sixers guard T.J. McConnell will miss the game for personal reasons. They’re also missing two more backcourt players in Jerryd Bayless and JJ Redick (who’s been out for over a week). Little-used reserve James Young is also questionable to play with an illness.

For the Bulls, Kris Dunn will miss tonight because of his concussion and is “almost certain” to miss the Bulls game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday according to Chicago Tribune reporter K.C. Johnson.

Zach LaVine will remain on his 24 minutes per game limit tonight, with a meeting coming soon to discuss upping those minutes.

Season Series:

On Dec. 18 with Joel Embiid sitting, the Bulls absorbed 27 points from Dario Saric and 19 from Ben Simmons to pull out a 117-115 come-from-behind win to inflate their winning streak to six games.

Dunn and Nikola Mirotic had 22 points apiece and combined to score the Bulls last 13 points of the game to continue the Bulls recent trend of dominance against Philly.

Preview:

Embiid is back for the Sixers meaning everything has changed compared to that last matchup. The 23-year-old center made his first All-Star game this season (and is a starter). He averages 23.8 points and 11 rebounds per game, and can officially ask out Rhianna now (but he has moved on apparently).

Embiid leads a Sixers team (2.2 offensive rebounds per game) that is third in the NBA in offensive rebounding percentage at 25.9 percent (the percentage of available offensive rebounds that the Sixers collect). The Sixers rebound by committee; Embiid and Saric who lead the Sixers with 2.2 offensive rebounds per game check in at tied for 25th in the NBA in this category.

The Bulls are 28th in offensive rebound percentage so the battle on the boards could go a long way towards determining a winner tonight.

Besides Embiid, Simmons is the headliner for the Sixers. It’s funny because teams know what he’s going to do (attack the basket every time because he can’t shoot) yet they can’t stop it. Simmons averages 16.3 points per game on 51.2 percent from the field and 7.2 assists per game (sixth best in the NBA).

The 6-foot-10-inch Croatian Saric hurt the Bulls badly in the first matchup between the two teams to the tune of 27 points on 10-for-19 from the field. Stopping him while also having to deal with both Embiid and Simmons will be a challenge.

The Sixers are a team that will give opponents extra possessions because they turn the ball over very frequently. They are last in the NBA in turnovers per game (18.3). Simmons and Embiid are among the league leaders in turnovers per 48 minutes.

Despite all the young talent, the Sixers can’t escape from their season-long flirtation with the .500 mark. They haven’t been more than four games above or below this mark the entire season.

All of the Sixers injuries mentioned above could force young players like Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Justin Anderson into a larger role. The Bulls bench, which has been really good since Mirotic returned, should have a decided advantage against the short-handed Sixers.

The Bulls continue to play good basketball since the return of Mirotic, and at this point it’s almost more surprising when they lose than when they win. With the sting of the double overtime loss against the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday still fresh in their mind, the Bulls should have extra motivation to steal a win in Philly.