The Sixers have won three games in a row, but their true test is just beginning. It was recently announced that Ben Simmons will have surgery on his left knee and likely miss the rest of the season (including the postseason).
After the Sixers opening loss to the Pacers, the team bounced back to victories against the Spurs, Wizards, and Magic. None of these were particularly encouraging as all three of these teams are underwhelming but the team has shown resilience in the face of adversity.
They will face their toughest challenge of the bubble to date as their next opponent is the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Damian Lillard led Blazers are coming fresh off a nail-biting loss versus the LA Clippers. They will be desperate to bounce back, especially as they are currently 1.5 games behind the eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
It won’t be easy, but the game may be the most exciting for the Sixers as of yet and it will feature some quality match-ups and players to watch.
Match-Up of the Game
Joel Embiid versus Jusuf Nurkić
Obviously, the Philadelphia 76ers start and end with Joel Embiid. The star Center is the leader of the Sixers and one of the most dominating players in the entire NBA. There’s always a little bit more excitement when Embiid faces one of the many quality Centers the NBA boasts.
This game will be no different as Embiid’s opponent is “The Bosnian Beast” Jusuf Nurkić. It’s not just the name that makes Nurkić great, he is the most underrated Center in the NBA. To take it a step further, he is arguably a top-five Center in the entire NBA when healthy.
These two behemoths of players will be going head to head in a battle that will rock the post. While the edge seems to go to Embiid, Nurkić is a sneakily good defender and may slow down Embiid.
The key strategy for Embiid should be to use his athleticism to get Nurkić into foul trouble. With Blazers’ Center Hassan Whiteside potentially out due to injury, the Blazers are thin down low. Attacking the rim should be a priority for the entire team, but especially Joel Embiid.
Player to Watch
Sixers – Alec Burks
Alec Burks reintroduced himself in a big way against the Orlando Magic, scoring 22 points off the bench for the Sixers. A capable ball-handler, slasher, and shooter, Burks brings to the table a more experienced version of what Shake Milton is.
Burks should absolutely continue to see high minutes (28 against Orlando) as the Sixers look to reshape their roster following Ben Simmons’ injury. While Burks can’t fully replace Ben Simmons, he’s certainly going to try as the team has no other option and he is looking for a big payday in free agency.
It would be criminal for Brett Brown to do anything other than giving Burks starter’s minutes even if it’s in a bench role.
The Sixers will need some extra firepower this game and Burks is the most likely source.
Blazers – Damian Lillard
As if there were anyone else. Damian Lillard is consistently one of the most motivated players in the entire NBA. After the Blazers recent frustrating loss at the hands of the Clippers, Lillard is not exactly happy:
An unhappy Lillard is a motivated Lillard and a motivated Lillard is dangerous.
The Sixers will have to throw their best defenders at Lillard in an attempt to at least slow him down. Unfortunately, do to Ben Simmons’ injury, the Sixes’ list of great perimeter defenders is down to Matisse Thybulle. Good luck rook.
Tip-off is at 6:30 PM EST and you can catch it on NBC Sports Philadelphia and on NBA TV. As always, if you prefer, you can always listen live on 97.5 FM The Fanatic.
This game will show just how much fight the Sixers have in them and if they can overcome Ben Simmons’ injury.
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