The Philadelphia 76ers are back at the Farg tonight in a bid to hold off the 5-5 Portland Trailblazers. On the surface, this is something that’s easily attainable. Here’s everything you need to know.
76ers C Joel Embiid deserves a rest after rampant run
Joel Embiid flexed his MVP muscle again on Wednesday in a 34-point showcase against the Hornets, playing a huge part in the 118-111 win. His defense was ruthless and his efficiency from the perimeter (3-5 from 3-point range) was stunning to watch. As a result, the Sixers are now 16-6 and remain atop the Eastern conference.
Durability has been the concern with Embiid and while he did have a big break before the Hornets matchup, it would make sense to give Dwight Howard some extra minutes tonight and keep the MVP candidate as fresh as possible. Especially considering just how shorthanded Portland looks.
Without C.J McCollum in the lineup, the Blazers have been a very different team. Damian Lillard has had stepped up in a huge way, averaging 29 points and 7.3 assists per game, while players like Enes Kanter and 2018 second-round pick Gary Trent Jr try to limit the damage. The bad news for Portland is that Dame, one of the most dangerous guards in the league, will sit out tonight with an abdominal strain. This is a huge relief to the Sixers, who can rest Embiid and don’t have to worry about how to defend Lillard.
No McCollum, no Lillard, no Nurkic. This is the perfect scenario for the second game of a back-to-back.
Former 76rs fan favorite returns
The question now becomes one of stopping an old friend in Robert Covington, who is having a bit of a down-year. However, he recently snapped a bad run of form, going 6-10 from the floor for 19 points against the Wizards in a big win.
Keys to the game
We all know just how good the Sixers have been defensively and this is a stark contrast to the Blazers’ 29th ranked unit. They’re allowing a shocking 37.6 three-point attempts per game and this is something that should have Doc’s shooting guards licking their lips.
With Curry and Green in the lineup and Embiid potentially being limited, this will give Rivers a chance to play small and take advantage of the fact that a weakened defense does not have the offensive firepower to keep up with the 76ers if they begin to heat up. The gameplan here should feature plenty of selfless passing and hammering as many shots from beyond the arc as one possibly can.
This is also a great chance to get another extended look at Tyrese Maxey, whose minutes have notably dipped after the injury bug decided to relinquish its grip on the franchise. Maxey put up 9 points against the Pacers in 18 minutes of play, but played just 5 minutes against the Hornets. Getting him and Isaiah Joe some minutes shouldn’t be too much of a tall-order here in a game the team have all the ability to control throughout, and one that could require their offensive strengths to do so.
76ers vs Trailblazers Prediction
This should be an easy win. If it isn’t it’s the curse of the trap game. That curse does seem to have been lifted under Doc Rivers however, and with the Trailblazers being so shorthanded, I can’t see it returning tonight.
Hornets 98-121 76ers
Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire