By Connor Thomas
The 76ers are gearing up for their 2nd game of their 4 game West Coast road trip tonight in Portland as they take on the 13-10 Trailblazers. The teams last met this past Thursday, when a Blazers team without their top duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum ran the Sixers out of the Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia was without Ben Simmons in that contest, but the rest of the starters were on the floor for the 16 point loss to a team whose top scorers were Gary Trent and an ancient Carmelo Anthony. While Philly 6th man Shake Milton is listed as doubtful for the contest due to the ankle injury he suffered in the 2nd half of the team’s win over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night, the full starting 5 should be intact again. The Sixers are 14-0 so far this year when all 5 starters are active, and even though Lillard is expected to go for the Blazers, with McCollum still sidelined with a foot injury the Sixers should be a favorite again tonight. The question is, will they be able to make up for last week’s upset and actually perform like the favorites tonight. In his 15 career games against the Sixers, Lillard has been pedestrian for his standards at least, averaging 23.6 ppg. That alone shouldn’t be enough to overcome a Philadelphia team that Doc Rivers has at the top of the Eastern Conference, but if Trent and Anthony are left free to both clear 20 points again, the Sixers may have their issues. In a season that has seen a new scheduling quirk of having consecutive games against the same team at some points, Philly still has not lost to any team in the NBA twice. The Blazers have only beaten one team twice so far – the Kings, who the Sixers just defeated on Tuesday night.
All signs point to a healthy Sixers squad being able to win their second straight road game late tonight in Portland. Perhaps the biggest of these signs is that Joel Embiid will be facing a big man combination of Enes Kanter and Harry Giles. In his 14 career matchups vs Kanter, Embiid has been able to eat, averaging 25.4 points and 10.4 rebounds. When Kanter rests, the job will get even easier for Joel as Giles sounds more like the front man for a mid-2010s boy band than an NBA center. Barring another major upset, which seems unlikely in consecutive games between Philly and Portland, it would seem the Sixers have a great opportunity to move to 2-0 on their road trip tonight.
The offensive matchup of the game for the Sixers will be Tyrese Maxey against the Blazers bench players. With Shake Milton doubtful for tonight’s game, the Sixers will need to find some bench scoring from somewhere else. Tonight, some of that load will fall on Maxey as he should see some significant minutes.
The defensive matchup of the game for the Sixers will be Ben Simmons/Matisse Thybulle on Damian Lillard. It has become a clear strategy for Doc Rivers to put either Simmons or Thybulle on the opposition’s best offensive option down the stretch. Seeing as that’s Lillard tonight, expect the two to shoulder the load of shutting down Dame Time if the game is close in the 4th.
Tip Off: 10pm
TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: Right here on 97.5 The Fanatic!