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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Philadelphia 76ers Preview

The Blazers face Jimmy Butler and the 76ers on the second night of a home back-to-back.

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Philadelphia 76ers v Utah Jazz

Portland Trail Blazers (20-16) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (23-13)

December 30th, 2018 - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Maurice Harkless (out)
76ers injuries: Joel Embiid (out), Markelle Fultz (out), Justin Patton (out), Zhaire Smith (out)
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

The Portland Trail Blazers will try to bounce back from a 115-105 loss at Moda Center to the Golden State Warriors. The Blazers bench will need to improve on their 14-point performance if they want a solid chance at defeating the 76ers.

The Philadelphia 76ers sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, just two wins behind the first place Milwaukee Bucks. Recent results have been a bit choppy, going 4-4 over their last eight games. Most recently, the 76ers defeated the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City by a score of 114-97.

What to watch for

  • The 76ers know how to move the ball. Philadelphia is second in the NBA with 26.9 assists per game. The Blazers are 28th with only 21 per game. The 76ers will test the Blazers’ defensive discipline, an area that they haven’t always excelled in this year.
  • Rebounding might be key. Both teams are very good at rebounding, with Portland having a slight advantage by most measures. The Blazers do average one more offensive board per game, a not-insignificant difference. If the Blazers can get the better of the 76ers at cleaning up the glass they have every chance of winning on the scoreboard.

What they’re saying

Could Joel Embiid be defensive player of the year? Coach Brown thinks so reports Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

More than once this season Brett Brown has said that Joel Embiid is the defensive player of the year. The 76ers coach believes that his star center deserves the NBA’s end-of-year accolade and said as much following the Sixers’ 114-97 win over the Jazz late Thursday.

Embiid wants it, but he doesn’t feel like he’s shown enough this season to deserve it. Despite a dominating defensive performance in Utah against the reigning DPOY, Rudy Gobert, in which Embiid posted 23 points, 15 rebounds, and five blocks, he said there is room to grow.

Andrew Favakeh of Liberty Ballers breaks down the 76ers’ drop coverage in pick and rolls and describes what has gone wrong and how to make it better:

In Boston’s 121-114 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, Kyrie Irving splashed in the tough shots that solidify him as a superstar. Most of those baskets came courtesy of the pick and roll, where he exposed a familiar problem in Philadelphia.

While Irving’s second-highest scoring total of the season would induce some sort of epiphany to most teams, Philadelphia abides by a cautious defensive scheme in pick and rolls — drop coverage — which inherently allows Irving to finagle shots in the mid-range, while (supposedly) starving him of easy layups.

Want to learn more about the 76ers players? Our old friend Serena Winters has you covered on NBC Sports Philadelphia:

When I sat down to write this week, I’ll be honest, I had no idea what about. Well, actually, I had plenty of ideas, but all of them required a few minutes with players to help the stories come to life. And the Sixers hadn’t had a practice or shootaround with media availability for over two weeks because of travel, scheduled days off, rest, etc.

And then I realized, I’ve learned some pretty neat things about the Sixers 35 games in.