Extra Pass: 76ers hope to exact revenge vs. Pelicans

Published January 2, 2023, 5:00 PM â—Ź Miguel Flores

Catch the Joel Embiid-Zion Williamson showdown as the Pelicans face the Sixers on NBA League Pass at 8:00 AM.

What's up with the New Orleans Pelicans?

It's a great time to be an NBA fan. We were treated to an incredible month of basketball to end 2022 as all the stars decided to go nuclear every game they played.

Beyond Luka and LeBron making history, and Jokic solidifying his case for a third straight MVP, we had Zion Williamson transcend another plane.

Watching Zion over the last week is like seeing Shaquille O’Neal dominate when he first entered the league. Free from injury and finally looking like he has his legs under him, Williamson is crushing defenses with his size and speed. He’s like the Shaq and Charles Barkley’s lovechild. It’s like a heavyweight boxer facing dudes below his weight class.

It’s not like he’s being defended by dwarves. He took on the Memphis Grizzlies’ frontline of Jaren Jackson Jr. and Steven Adams just yesterday. In December, Williamson averaged 29.8 points on 61.3 percent shooting.

This was the vision with Zion in the 2018 Draft: a freak athlete that the league rarely sees and should make his team an instant contender. Currently, the Pelicans are second in the West with a 23-13 record. That’s with All-Star Brandon Ingram having missed their last 17 games. He still probably won't be back for tomorrow’s matchup, but that shouldn’t matter. Zion with CJ McCollum, Herb Jones, Trey Murphy and other Pelicans pieces has been enough to stump the league.

What’s up with the Philadelphia 76ers?

Remember when I hyped up Zion’s December a few paragraphs ago? Joel Embiid was arguably the best player of that entire month.

Embiid and Williamson are cut from the same cloth, but they use their immenseness in different ways. Where Zion plays on the extreme end of physicality, Embiid flashes finesse as much as he can. He gets into it in the paint on both ends, but Embiid has grown more comfortable using his touch and ball-handling to baffle his ground-bound defenders.

The Process was the top scorer in December, dropping 35.4 points per game on 54.5 percent shooting with 9.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.8 blocks. He was everywhere on the court for the Sixers, who desperately needed it with several injuries to their backcourt over the last month, namely James Harden and Tyrese Maxey.

Flanked by Tobias Harris and De’Anthony Melton, Embiid has led the Sixers to a 21-14 record, just 2.5 games behind the second-place Milwaukee Bucks and 4.5 games behind the top-seeded Boston Celtics.

Zion vs. Joel

This isn’t a fresh matchup as both teams just met a few days ago in New Orleans, and the Zion vs. Joel definitely lived up to the billing.

The Pelicans made big plays down the stretch to escape with the close win as Zion dropped 36 points on 13-for-19 shooting. Embiid also had a monster game, going for 37 points on 14-for-22 shooting.

Expect tomorrow’s matchup to be more of the same. The Pelicans have been gangbusters on both ends while the Sixers have picked up their chemistry the more James Harden plays.