Portland Trail Blazers (35-23) at Philadelphia 76ers (38-21)
Saturday, February 23 - 10:00am PT
Blazers injuries: Evan Turner (out)
Sixers injuries: Joel Embiid (out), Zaire Smith (out), Furkan Korkmaz (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 take on the Philadelphia 76ers on the heels of a victory over the Brooklyn Nets 113-99. In the win over the Nets, Jusuf Nurkic beasted with 27 points and 12 rebounds, while Enes Kanter took over the second unit, contributing 18 points and 9 rebounds in his first performance for the Blazers. CJ McCollum followed the big men with 21 points, six rebounds, and five assists, while both Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless had solid performances. With such an early start on Saturday, the Blazers will need energy on both ends of the floor to capture another road win.
The big news for Philadelphia is Joel Embiid’s unexpected week-long absence due to knee soreness. Without him, the 76ers will need to depend on the rest of their star-heavy rotation. In Philly’s 106-102 squeaker over the Miami Heat Thursday, three such players stepped up: Big man Boban Marjanovic lodged 19 points and 12 rebounds, Tobias Harris added 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Ben Simmons marked 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists.
What to watch for
- Enes Kanter. The addition of Kanter to the lineup spells significant changes for how other teams handle the Blazers in the paint. Kanter has an active post game, allowing him to dominate inside. It also means a lift for the bench, which has struggled to keep up on offense at points this season. When Kanter finally learns the flow offense, it could be a real difference-maker for the second unit.
- Revising and revisiting rotations. While Portland got to see how Rodney Hood could contribute to the team ahead of the All-Star break, the arrival of Kanter means that rotations will have to be adjusted again. In Brooklyn, Zach Collins, Meyers Leonard, and Skal Labissiere did not see the floor. However, there is no doubt that the additions of Hood and Kanter buttresses the Blazers’ bottom line.
- Aggressive offense. Kanter provides a traditional big man with a diverse set of back-to-the-basket moves. When he settles into the offensive sets Portland runs, things should smooth out, and having established firepower at the center position in both units means that other contributors will feel less pressured to perform night in and night out. Having two big men available also means that a small-ball league may struggle to keep up with them, especially on the offensive glass: in the game against the Nets, Portland managed 22 second-chance points.
What they’re saying
At the Philadelphia Inquirer, David Murphy examines some of the personality quirks of Joel Embiid:
There’s no question that Embiid’s perseverance and eventual emergence is attributable first and foremost to his otherworldly physical skill set. But there’s also no question that part of it is due to his personality, to the paradoxical way in which he combines a burning desire to be great with the lightness of being required to enjoy the uneven process of reaching such heights.
Gordie Jones of Forbes explains how the addition of Boban Marjanovic helped them win over Miami:
But the Serbian is not without skill. He went 6-for-7 from the floor Thursday, nailing an elbow jumper at one point, a floater at another. And he’s excellent at catching the ball, keeping it high -- real high -- and finishing, often courtesy of a tippy-toes dunk.
Over at Liberty Ballers, Hesi-Pullup-Adio explores the hype build-up around the new Sixers line-up, which—despite shifting circumstances—has some advantages ahead:
There will be plenty of tune-ups before that, and the schedule is very favorable the rest of the way. Coming out of the All-Star break, the Sixers had the eighth easiest schedule in the league through the rest of the season. If that sounds familiar, it should, because it’s the same track that was played last year.