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Portland Trail Blazers at Philadelphia 76ers Preview

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The Blazers look to make it three in a row tonight, going up against a tough 76ers team.

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NBA: Indiana Pacers at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (10-7) at Philadelphia 76ers (9-7)

Wednesday, November 22nd - 4:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Al-Farouq Aminu (out), Damian Lillard (probable)
76ers injuries: Markelle Fultz (out), Justin Anderson (out), Richaun Holmes (questionable)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Liberty Ballers

Portland is visiting Philadelphia on the second game of a five-game road trip. The 76ers have won eight of their last 11 contests, with two of their losses coming against the Warriors (the third was in Sacramento, so the teams have that in common). The Blazers are coming off back-to-back solid performances and looking to win three in a row for the first time this season.

What to watch for

  • The Process paying off. After going 75-253 over the past four seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers are finally consistently interesting to watch. The “process”—which involved allowing the team to be as bad as possible to secure high draft picks—allowed Philadelphia to draft Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz as top-three picks in consecutive drafts. Fultz has been limited by a shoulder injury and Okafor has just been limited, but Embiid and Simmons have provided quite a spark. Against the Lakers last week, Embiid posted a stat line never before seen in the NBA: 46 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 7 blocks. Simmons had two triple-doubles in the first nine games of his career (something only Oscar Robinson has done) and is averaging 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game. If their health can hold up, Embiid and Simmons look like they will validate former GM Sam Hinkie’s plan—although 76ers fans had to endure some pretty bad seasons to get here.
  • Damian Lillard’s ankle. Lillard rolled his ankle pretty badly in Monday’s win in Memphis. He returned to play in the second half but did admit the ankle was bothering him. While he’s expected to play tonight, it remains to be seen if he will be as effective as he normally is.
  • Bench contribution. The Blazers’ scoring is top-heavy, with only three players (Dame, CJ, and Nurk) averaging double figures. Recently, however, Portland has gotten some solid contribution from the bench—specifically Shabazz Napier and Meyers Leonard. Leonard, who recently returned from an ankle injury, chipped in 8 points on 4-for-4 shooting against Memphis on Monday after scoring 11 on 4-for-8 (including 3-for-5 from outside) the game before. Napier has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games while shooting 53.6 percent. The bench will need to continue to provide some spark for the Blazers, especially if Lillard’s ankle injury limits him at all.

What they’re saying

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid both appeared in the top five of ESPN’s most recent weekly player rankings. Micah Adams had this to say about Embiid, who ranked No. 2:

We’ve reached the point where those salivating per-36 numbers aren’t far off from what we actually see in games. At least that’s how it went down last week. For the first time in his career, Embiid played 30 minutes in consecutive games and those frightening per-36 numbers held up and then some with the added mileage. In addition to hanging 33 and 13, Embiid drew 9.7 fouls per game while shooting 72 percent from the foul line. He’s once again the all-time leader in points per 36 minutes, ahead of Michael Jordan, while he ranks first in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus. Nobody can stop him, and he can stop everyone.

Adams wrote this about the 5th-ranked Simmons:

Simmons took the orchestra conducting to new heights last week, averaging 109 touches per game, which were far and away the most by any player, according to Second Spectrum. Simply put: Philly’s offense runs on another level when Simmons initiates the show. According to Second Spectrum, the 76ers average 1.11 points per play in the half court this season when Simmons brings the ball up, compared to just 0.96 when anyone else initiates. That gap proved to be a canyon in three games last week, as Simmons-initiated half-court offenses averaged a whopping 1.27 points per possessions, while any other player bringing the ball up led to a 0.77 point per possession return. If he’s in the game and they aren’t running, get Ben the ball!

While Simmons and Embiid have been garnering all the attention, the 76ers have also gotten solid contribution from Robert Covington. Luke Swiatek of The Sixer Sense wrote about how Covington, who recently signed an extension, helps Philadelphia:

Covington doesn’t have any noticeable holes in his game though; he’s an incredible shooter, our best perimeter defender by far, and even rebounds well. If you want a defensive lineup, a shooting lineup, a small-ball lineup, or a giant lineup, he can fit in all of them and make each better, making him possibly the most versatile player on the Sixers. His biggest weakness is probably his inability to make plays for others, but with Simmons and Embiid already on the roster, it’s probably best that we have low-usage guys around them anyway.