The 4-0 Philadelphia 76ers return to action tonight, facing the Portland Trail Blazers to start a four-game West Coast trip. The Sixers will be without Joel Embiid, who is serving the first game of his two-game suspension in the fallout from the Karl-Anthony Towns scuffle. Fortunately, Ben “Peacemaker” Simmons was not fined or suspended and will be back in action tonight.
Portland sits at 3-2 on the year, most recently topping Oklahoma City Wednesday night, 102-99. As usual, the Blazers are led by their star backcourt of Damian Lillard (29.2 points and 7.6 assists per game) and CJ McCollum (23.0 points per game). Lillard should provide another terrific test for the Sixers’ point-of-attack defense spearheaded by Josh Richardson and Matisse Thybulle. Despite playing less than 22 minutes per game, the rookie currently leads the league in steals (3.0 per game) and is tied for third in deflections (5.3 per game).
Although Embiid’s absence will sting, the pain won’t be quite as pronounced with Al Horford around and playing excellent basketball. We have already seen in the wins over Detroit and Minnesota how Horford can step up playing the full-time center position. Big Al scored 15 huge fourth-quarter points in the win over the Pistons, then grabbed 16 rebounds against the Wolves, many coming after Embiid was ejected from the game midway through the third quarter.
Horford and Kyle O’Quinn are more than capable of manning the pivot, especially with Portland depleted in the frontcourt themselves. The Blazers are still months away from Jusuf Nurkic’s return from a broken leg, are currently without the services of Zach Collins due to a dislocated shoulder, and may be without Hassan Whiteside, who is dealing with a sore knee.
Philadelphia is enjoying its first 4-0 start since the 2000-01 team that eventually made an NBA Finals run. This current Sixers club has similar long-term aspirations, but still has a ways to go to match that Iverson-led squad’s 10-0 start. Settle in, grab a Wayfinder beer and a Voodoo doughnut, and watch if Brett Brown and crew can continue the winning ways in Portland.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
When: 10:00 pm ET
Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBA TV
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Joel Embiid (out - suspension); Shake Milton (out - knee); Trey Burke (probable - illness)
Portland: Zach Collins (out - shoulder); Jusuf Nurkic (out - leg); Pau Gasol (out - foot); Hassan Whiteside (questionable - knee);