Joel Embiid and the Sixers were set to face off against the Trailblazers and there were plenty of players to watch in this one. Embiid was injured early on but the team fought hard to compete. The Sixers had the support of their entire fanbase and even a familiar face.
Of course, Bridges has his own reasons for the good wishes as his Phoenix Suns were only a half-game behind the Blazers.
Either way, the Sixers were ready to show the NBA what they were made of.
The Blazers came out red hot against the sluggish Sixers. It was as Philadelphia was the team playing a back-to-back instead of the Blazers. Damian Lillard (to the shock of no one) scored not only the initial basket but 14 total points by the end of the quarter.
Joel Embiid did well to force the Blazers’ bigs into early foul trouble but he wouldn’t have the chance to take advantage. Embiid went down early with what looked like a sprained ankle while Al Horford picked up two quick fouls and soon enough, Norvelle Pelle was in the game.
The Sixers’ struggles were clear. From injuries, to foul trouble to the bench looking frankly lost on the court.
Without surprise, they finished the quarter down big.
Sixers 19 – Blazers 33
The second quarter brought some much-needed energy. Joel Embiid may not have made an appearance, but Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson led a comeback effort that has kept them in the game.
It was roughly halfway through the quarter when the dreaded announcement was made that Joel Embiid would not return the game.
The Sixers held their ground for the most part but without Joel Embiid, it was open season in the paint for the Blazers. Jusuf Nurkić in particular was a problem. Though he dealt with early foul trouble when he returned, there was no one who could guard him. Pelle and Scott bounced off like they were nothing and “the Bosnian Beast” had his way.
The offense was clicking. They finished the quarter shooting 7/15 from three, so why were they still down? The couldn’t stop anything is the short answer. The Sixers defense was notional, which is a fancy word I found for nonexistent.
The Sixers allowed 67 points in the first half. They allowed the Blazers to shoot over 50% from the field and attempt 19 free-throws (of which they made 18). The Sixers did themselves no favors and only had themselves to blame despite the Embiid injury.
Josh Richardson caught fire though and by him, they had a chance.
Sixers 58 – Blazers 67
Defensive troubles continued to bedevil the Sixers but Josh Richardson kept his hot hand from the first half. Shake Milton began to shine after a CJ McCollum flagrant foul. Milton showed a controlled aggressiveness that the Sixers need in these injury-riddled times.
Suddenly, the Sixers rediscovered their ability to play defense. Before you knew, the team was somehow within three. It was an unbelievable turnaround given the hand the Sixers were dealt.
Josh Richardson began to take over, scoring at will and with just three minutes left in the quarter. The Sixers remarkably tied the game.
Al Horford also looked sharp, scoring with ease and efficiency. The Sixers would have to rely heavily on him and may for some time to come with Embiid injured.
It was encouraging to see a strong end to the quarter from Glen Robinson III and Alec Burks the Sixers’ latest additions. Like Horford, they will be heavily relied on as the team looks to make a deep playoff push.
Josh Richardson sealed the quarter with a step back giving the Sixers their first lead of the game.
Sixers 92 – Blazers 91
The Sixers continued to hold their lead but Portland wouldn’t let up. Carmelo Anthony and Damian Lillard carried the scoring load but Richardson and Burks fired back.
Burks had himself an incredible fourth-quarter, scoring seemingly at will. Finishing the quarter with points, Burks was unconscious. Burks showed why he deserves big minutes and Brett Brown may have no other choice but to give in.
Soon though, Damian Lillard woke up and took over scoring seven points in a 20-second span. Lillard crossed the 50 point line in the final two minutes. The Blazers were pulling away and the game seemed out of reach. That is, if not for Sixers’ golden boy Al Horford.
Horford knocked down a clutch three with 12 seconds left in the game. The Blazers advanced the ball and inbounded the ball to Jusuf Nurkić who was promptly fouled. Nurkić proceeded to knock down his free-throws and the Sixers were left to hunt for a three.
Coming out of a time out, Alec Burks inbounded the ball to Josh Richardson (who was fouled with a no call). Richardson was able to get a three-pointer off but unfortunately fell short.
It was a valiant effort and encouraging going forward considering they were missing their two best players.
Sixers 121 – Blazers 124Next Game Mentality for Sixers
The Sixers played with unbelievable strength tonight. While I don’t believe in moral victories, what the Sixers showed in this game gives confidence that with a healthy Joel Embiid, they still have a chance for a deep playoff run.
For now, they lick their wounds and prepare for their next opponent, the undefeated (in the bubble) Phoenix Suns. Thankfully, Embiid didn’t even require an MRI so he may be available for a least a short run against Phoenix.
Tip-off for that game is at 4:30 PM EST on Tuesday August 11th and you can watch it at NBC Sports Philadelphia. Or if you prefer to listen, you can catch the game as always at 97.5 FM the Fanatic.
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