Philadelphia has gone 3-1 since the NBA restarted the regular season in the Orlando Bubble, but between the sloppy play and Ben Simmons’ injury and subsequent knee surgery, it feels like 0-100. Nevertheless, it’s a next-man-up mentality for Joel Embiid and the rest of the team. After winning their first game without Ben Friday night against the Magic, they will hit the court tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers in search of their fourth straight victory.
Fortunately, the Sixers have another instance of catching a team on a rare SEGABABA (second game of a back-to-back) in the Bubble. Portland is coming off a 122-117 loss to the Clippers yesterday, a game that was not just dramatic for Rodney McGruder’s go-ahead 3-pointer with under 30 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing possession after the McGruder 3, Damian Lilliard had a chance to tie and put his team ahead at the free throw line, but missed both foul shots. Meanwhile, Patrick Beverley and Marcus Morris were gleefully mocking Lillard from the bench:
Patrick Beverley being an uber troll and yelling "DAME TIME" as Damian Lillard misses two clutch free throws pic.twitter.com/e4CoipEXgR— Farbod Esnaashari (@Farbod_E) August 8, 2020
The drama carried over to the post-game press conference, and then social media, with Dame and Paul George (who, remember, was sent home in the playoffs by Lillard’s 37-foot series-winner last season) getting into it on Instagram:
GOD DAMN pic.twitter.com/P8mijbuFZL— Roberto Perez (@WorldWideWob) August 8, 2020
Safe to say, the NBA drama engine is up and running at rich kid’s summer camp in Orlando.
Off-court shenanigans aside, Portland has been playing good basketball lately, going 3-2 in the restart with wins over Memphis, Houston, and Denver. The Blazers sit 1.5 games back of the Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the West, and look much more dangerous with starters Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back from injury. Nurkic is one of the few opposing centers big and strong enough to body up Embiid on the interior.
These two teams had one previous meeting this season back in November, which you may recall as when Furkan Korkmaz hit a game-winning 3 with 0.4 seconds left. The Sixers had moved to 5-0 with that victory, Al Horford had scored a team-high 25 points, and everything had seemed right with the basketball world.
Even considering the back-to-back for Portland, tonight is bound to be a tough task for the Sixers. Lillard and backcourt mate C.J. McCollum are exactly the type of guards who give Philadelphia fits, and with Simmons out, more of the defensive burden will fall to Josh Richardson and Matisse Thybulle. The Sixers have been a far cry from razor sharp on the defensive end, and with the Blazers sure to be pissed off following yesterday’s proceedings, they’ll have the intensity meter ratcheted up to the maximum. We’ll see if Philadelphia can rise to the occasion.
Philadelphia: Ben Simmons - out (knee); Zhaire Smith - out (knee); Glenn Robinson III - questionable (hip pointer)
Portland: Hassan Whiteside - doubtful (hip); Jaylen Adams - out (back); Caleb Swanigan - out (opted out of restart); Trevor Ariza - out (opted out of restart); Rodney Hood - out (achilles)
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, FL (The Bubble)
When: 6:30pm ET
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBA TV
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic