The Sixers (10-7) parlayed a dominant defensive effort into a 101-81 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers (10-8) Wednesday. It wasn't just a product of Portland missing their shots, either. Almost every Sixers chipped in to the outing tonight to not only minimize Portland's prolific scoring duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but play a defensively sound game while creating steals and blocks.
Joel Embiid stifled both guards and Portland's centers in the paint, severely limiting CJ McCollum's output. His 7-foot-2 length affected mid-range looks and floaters while Nurkic and Ed Davis had a brutal time dealing with Embiid's length. Embiid recorded just two blocks, but his impact went wire-to-wire. Simmons opportunistically helped onto his teammates' man to total three steals and stymie Portland's guards into poor looks. He also met Lillard at the rim for a block, something Embiid and Amir Johnson accomplished as well, furthering his rangy defensive impact tonight.
Simmons can be counted on defensively to create some events, either steals or blocks, but his activity and lateral quickness is a rare package for an offensively centric rookie. He just continues to impress. Offensively, Simmons went to work on his matchups early. Simmons' first basket came in iso on Maurice Harkless with a right-hand hook. On the following possession, Simmons cruised past Noah Vonleh for a finger roll layup, and hit a push shot with touch early in the second quarter.
The point guard also made it a point to get the bigs involved. Simmons created a high-low to Dario that led to free throws, Simmons worked the pick-and-roll with Johnson for an and-1, and kicked out to T.J. McConnell en route to nine assists. Simmons threw down a viscious dunk driving past Harkless who gets caught on the screen, backed down Turner into a a right-hand hook and made a hook on Nurkic when the Sixers were clamoring for offense in the third. He finished with 16 PTS (8-of-20 FG), eight rebounds, and two blocks. Alongside the rookie, Embiid provided team-leading scoring production.
Embiid wasn't met with serious resistance on the block and along the baseline, overwhelming both Jusuf Nurkic and Ed Davis. Embiid missed his first pull-up over Nurkic, but went an early 5-of-5 from the line via hustle and power that led into his offensive explosion. Embiid finished an and-1 overpowering Davis, Embiid made a top-of-the-key three and had touch throughout the second half on his jumpers. He finished with a team-high 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting and a team-high 12 rebounds. His back-tap to Redick for a three when the lead started to quickly evaporate in the second quarter was a massive play. He affected McCollum, Lillard and Portland's bigs' shots consistently tonight.
Four of the Trail Blazers' starters didn't score until the second quarter, as unsung hero Shabazz Napier had to provide the initial spark. The team shot a collective 30-89 (33.7 percent) and 7-for-26 (26.9 percent) from three.
JJ Redick had to prevent Lillard and McCollum from being Portland's catalysts tonight and he did his part. Lillard eventually finished with 30 points on a voluminous 11-for-27 shooting tonight and the majority of his offense came with T.J. McConnell trying to limit him. He's the personification of scoring and he forced his attempts to create some production for himself. His counterpart, McCollum, shot a woeful 1-for-14 from the floor. Credit Embiid and the Sixers' gaurds. Redick looks the part of an energy guy defensively who's willing to tag and trail and capitalize on opportunities. He forced a steal along the perimeter to trigger a fastbreak opportunity, which led to T.J. McConnell dishing to Simmons for the flush.
Redick curling off of a Robert Covington screen following Embiid's back-tap into a made three, after the Trail Blazers cut the deficit to single digits at 39-31, terminated Portland's momentum. Early in the third quarter, the Trail Blazers couldn't generate consistent offense and Simmons provided some scoring production to prevent a sheer cold stretch. When Simmons took a seat, Amir Johnson entered with gusto. He blocked a shot at the rim and gave the Sixers a second opportunity after a Covington missed free throw.
The Sixers finished with 18 turnovers, as every player outside of Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot committed at least one. Indecisiveness, careless ball movement and dribbling issues became a problem Philadelphia overcame. Embiid's two turnovers in a minute span was the only real stain on his otherwise impressive two-way performance. He finished with a team-high four and Amir Johnson had three.
Both TLC and Jerryd Bayless went 0-for-6 from the perimeter before TLC hit a timely three. However, Bayless held his ground defensively and prevented Pat Connaughton from scoring on a breakaway layup. That play stuck out.
Amir Johnson entered and left his own imprint on the game, blocking Lillard at the basket and on a Portland big to prevent the layup. He had a crucial offensive rebound after Covington missed a free throw to get another offensive possession. Johnson finished with six points, one and-1 from Simmons, 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
T.J. McConnell's evolution into an efficient scorer (13 PTS, 5-of-7 FG) while providing scoring opportunities for his teammates (seven assists) are what you're asking for from the third-year guard. He looked like the second-best point guard on the floor tonight.
Philadelphia hosts the Orlando Magic (8-9) Saturday at 7:00 p.m. ET