The Tip-Off: Can the Sixers stop Damian Lillard’s historic scoring run?

The Philadelphia 76ers (4-0) will start their four-game stretch of away games, tipping off against the Portland Trailblazers (3-2) at 10 p.m. EST. The game can be watched on NBC sports Philadelphia, as listeners can catch the game on Philadelphia’s 97.5 The Fanatic.

The Embiid-less Sixers are 1.5-point underdogs with the over/under set at 220.

Missing Parts

The Sixers will now have their second game without leading points scorer Joel Embiid. Following the alternation with Karl-Anthony Towns, the big fella picked up a two-game suspension. Shake Milton will also be out for the “Broad Street Bullies” with a left knee injury.

For Portland, they are without Jusuf Nurkic (left leg rehabilitation), Pau Gasol (left foot) and Zac Collins (left shoulder). Hasaan Whiteside is also questionable with knee soreness.

Last Season

In two meetings during the 2018-2019 campaign, Portland took both games against Philadelphia. In both matchups, the Blazers dominated the Sixers, with their smallest margin of victory being 15. The other loss was by a terrorizing 34 points, but the Sixers were without Embiid then also.

All starters reached double figures in points for Portland in both games. However, the Sixers put out a starting lineup including Wilson Chandler and Amir Johnson to end the 2018 year on December 30th.

2019-2020 Trail Blazers

Portland comes into this game having won three of their last four games.
Damian Lillard is tied for third in the NBA in scoring with Clipper’ star Kawhi Leonard, averaging 29.2 points per game. Backcourt teammate CJ McCollum is averaging 28.0 points over the last three games as well. The high scoring pair will serve as trouble for the Sixers, despite their prideful defense so far this season.

The Sixers’ Undefeated Streak Ends

So far this season, the Sixers have shown signs of struggle guarding beyond the arc. On every other aspect of defense however, the Sixers have been lockdown. Rookie Matisse Thybulle leads the NBA in both steals and deflections, with teammate Ben Simmons merely lagging behind in second place with 11 steals.

Despite the defensive success, the Trailblazers may take the edge in this game. Assuming Lillard and McCollum both have the hot hand, the Sixers may fall short. Since Embiid is out, expect the Trail Blazers to attempt to drive the paint most possessions to start, then use Lillard and McCollum’s shooting ability to spread the floor. This will ultimately leave the team in a defensive frenzy.

My final score prediction would be 117-112 in favor of Portland. This game should be back and forth, however, the one-two punch of Lillard and McCollum will take the edge if both are hot. Being on the road, facing a hot team, and the time change will be tough also. Hopefully, underestimating the highly praised Sixers defense backfires, but expect Portland to hand the team their first loss.

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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