The Sixers started the game down three starters and lost another in the third.
Yet they still managed to take down Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers, 113-103, Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center. A vintage Andre Drummond performance, some clutch shooting by Seth Curry and a balanced scoring effort (34 assists on 43 made field goals) helped the Sixers secure the win. They improved to 5-2 with the victory.
The Sixers were without their three best players. Ben Simmons remains out for personal reasons. Joel Embiid was out for a planned rest with the team embarking on six games in the next nine days.
The most sudden was Tobias Harris who was a late scratch because of health and safety protocols. Harris was on the floor to warm up, but word came late that Harris was out. The latest report is not ideal.
Danny Green was also forced to leave the game in the third quarter with hamstring tightness. He did not return.
To no one’s surprise, popular trade target Damian Lillard was greeted warmly during introductions. He also heard loud “We want Lillard” chants during his first trip to the free throw line.
Here are a few observations from the night.
- Another game and another tough matchup defensively for Tyrese Maxey. Maxey’s assignment Monday may have been his toughest yet in the six-time All-Star Lillard. Again, Maxey has held up early. Granted Lillard is off to a tough start this season, but give the second-year guard credit where it’s due. Lillard shot just 2 of 11 from the field. And Danny Green did a solid job on C.J. McCollum (5 of 14).
- I also can’t help but wonder what this night would look like if Dwight Howard was still the team’s backup five. Drummond was sound in pick-and-roll coverage. You could argue he was the Sixers’ best player in the first quarter. Drummond had six points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals in the period.
(Pretty great look from Shake Milton there as well.)
As mentioned, he was pretty stout defensively as well.
- Paul Reed got the backup five minutes Monday and did Paul Reed things. He was active on the glass, but undisciplined defensively, picking up three fouls.
- Shake Milton looked good early. He was impressive in his first two outings since returning from an ankle injury. He had a nice drive on his first touch and then made a great pass for a Niang three to start the second.
He was able to make a couple more baskets by creating his own shot.
He had six points, three assists and zero turnovers in his first stint.
- Maxey had a tough start offensively. He uncharacteristically had three turnovers and just four points.
- Overall, the Sixers’ excellent team defense from Saturday vs. the Hawks carried over, but they’re continuing to get beat up on the glass. No Embiid, Harris or Simmons certainly doesn’t help.
- Actually, I’ll just go ahead and say it: Andre Drummond was the Sixers’ best player in the first half. The veteran big stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and three steals. He was also disciplined with no turnovers and just one personal foul. He’s a big reason the Sixers took a 54-53 lead into the locker room.
- Curry also continued his strong play with 10 points and four assists. As a team the Sixers had 20 assists on 24 made field goals. If you’re going to win without your best players, that’s a smart way to play.
- For whatever reason, it seems like Maxey has played his best basketball in third quarters this season. Monday was more of the same. The Sixers did not attempt a single free throw in the first, but Maxey was able to get to the line twice — the second on this strong and-one drive on Lillard.
- Curry continues to be a revelation for the Sixers. His ability to not only make shots but also attack closeouts and finish at the rim has been so impressive since the moment he arrived here.
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say acquiring Curry from Dallas could be one of the best trades in the team’s history.
- After a cold-shooting first half, Niang kept firing, making his first two threes of the second half.
Even when Niang isn’t making shots, he’s doing a lot of other things to help the Sixers win. What an outstanding addition he’s been.
- Non-Sixers note: Anfernee Simons is a freaking bucket. That young man can hoop.
- Furkan Korkmaz just made a pair of huge triples to extend the lead to nine not quite halfway through the fourth. It feels like every time the Blazers go on a run, the Sixers have an answer.
- Doc Rivers tried to extend a small-ball lineup with Niang at the five by going zone. Didn’t seem like a great strategy with the type of perimeter players Portland has. Drummond checking back in with 5:22 left in the fourth and the Sixers leading 102-96.
- It looked like it might be Dame Time. Lillard got the Blazers to within three after a couple makes. Turns it out it was Seth Time. Curry hit a huge floater to extend the lead back to six after a couple ugly Sixers possessions. Then Maxey was a blur on a drive to make the lead eight. Then Curry buried a three on the wing to put the Sixers back up double digits with a little over two minutes left.
- Between Curry’s clutch shooting and some huge stops down the stretch, the Sixers were able to secure the win. Curry finished with 23 points, six rebounds and five assists. Drummond was outstanding in Embiid’s stead with 14 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, five steals, and a block. Drummond also had zero turnovers on the night. Niang had 21 points, five rebounds and five assists.