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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Philadelphia 76ers Preview

The Blazers look to bounce back from Saturday’s loss to the Clippers.

Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (32-39) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (42-27)

Sunday, August 9 - 3:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Hassan Whiteside (out), Rodney Hood (out), Trevor Ariza (opted out), Caleb Swanigan (opted out)
76ers injuries: Glenn Robinson III (questionable), Ben Simmons (out), Zhaire Smith (out) Ryan Broekhoff (opted out),
How to watch on TV: NBC Sports Northwest, NBA TV
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Liberty Ballers

The Portland Trail Blazers blew it. Up by five and with neither Kawhi Leonard nor Paul George in the game, Portland couldn’t get it done, losing by a score of 122-117. Instead of flying high with a 4-1 record since coming to Florida, they find themselves at 3-2 and with three teams behind them in striking distance. The loss increases the stakes as the Blazers have to recover quickly and face the Philladelphia 76ers on the second game of a back-to-back. No one said this was going to be easy.

The 76ers are 3-1 since arriving in the Sunshine State, but honestly they haven’t impressed. A relatively easy schedule combined with lackluster performances and the loss of Ben Simmons has many folks in Philadelphia not terribly optimistic about their team’s chances. Last time out, the 76ers defeated the Orlando Magic by a score of 108-101. Philadelphia was fueled by balanced scoring as four players contributed over 20 points.

What to watch for

  • Joel Emiid. Emiid is 7’0”, 280 pounds and has a wingspam of 7’6”. On most nights he can get to any spot on the floor that he wants to. Given his talent and physique, the sky is the limit to how far he can go. When he gets the ball down low, most teams are forced to double him if they want to slow him down, and Embiid is getting good at seeing the double coming and making teams pay by finding the open man. The only problem? Embiid has a tendency to fall in love with his jump shot. If Embiid is looking to score often in the paint the Blazers will have their work cut out for them. If instead he starts getting the ball from 8 feet away or farther and settles for jumpers, the Blazers need to take advantage of the gift.
  • Better play from Zach. Zach Collins is still young, still learning, and coming off a serious injury. At times, his defense has been good and he’s generally shooting the ball well. Do we have any right to expect more? Perhaps not, but the Blazers could really use it. Numerous times in the bubble Zach has boxed out his man, gone up for the rebound in prime position and somehow not wound up with the ball. Too many times he’s been whistled for an untimely foul. Too many times he hasn’t provided the level of defending that he is capable of. A small increase in his performance would have an out-sized impact on the Blazers’ ability to make some noise for the rest of the season. He is well capable of making that small increase. It’s time to make some noise.
  • The Blazers need to dominate the three-point line. The 76ers are only attempting 28.5 shots from deep in Orlando compared to the Blazers’ mark of 37 per game. Additionally, Portland is hitting at a 45.4% clip from deep while Philadelphia is at 28.5%. This is an area where the Blazers should have a clear advantage. If the Blazers can get their shooters enough open looks from beyond the arc, that could very well be the difference between winning and losing.

What they’re saying

Marc Narducci of the Philladelphia Inquirer says that Joel Embiid can never post up enough:

It’s always so easy to say with Joel Embiid that he should stay in the low post, and the 76ers should continually pound the ball into him.

Centers like Embiid take a pounding down low and once in a while need a break. The problem is that Embiid, as dominating as he is, has frequently spent too much time away from the post even though he is the NBA’s top low-post scorer.

Has Ben Simmons played his last game in a 76ers uniform? Chris Fedor of says that there might not be enough room for both Simmons and Emiid in Philly, and the Cleveland Cavaliers might be able to make the right offer:

The Cavs, of course, would have interest in Simmons. He possesses the talent and versatility to immediately alter the team’s future. The Sixers would want a haul for the 2016 No. 1 pick who is locked up through 2023-24 and will probably be named to the All-Defense First Team. But the Cavs believe they have enough to assemble an enticing package, especially with recent first-rounders littering the roster, a top six pick coming in October and a future first from the Milwaukee Bucks.

Tyler Monahan of Liberty Ballers says that the 76ers have found the best role for Al Horford, namely coming off the bench:

With the injury to Ben Simmons now clouding what the Sixers’ plans are, one thing should be apparent: Al Horford does not need to start. While he did have a solid game last night against the Magic in a starting role, putting up 21 points and 9 rebounds, the Sixers’ decision-makers should not feel pressured to start him solely because he was given starter money in the offseason. This is the perfect opportunity for the Sixers to try something that they have never been able to do: surround Joel Embiid with shooters and floor spacers.