The Portland Trail Blazers found themselves in a familiar position today, trapped in a dogfight for their lives facing a considerably less motivated team without their best players.
It wasn’t easy; in fact, “easy” is a proposition this team and its fans may just have to give up on down the stretch of this restart, but Portland was able to keep its 9th place position intact by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 124-121 behind 51 points from Damian Lillard.
Many of the themes from yesterday’s fiasco with the Clippers could just be copy/pasted here: good offense; unrecognizable defense and formerly unassuming role players making the Blazers look silly — just substitute Alec Burks here for Rodney McGruder.
The Sixers were already coming in shorthanded after learning yesterday that Ben Simmons needs knee surgery and will likely miss the remainder of the season, and those woes only got worse after Joel Embiid exited the game early with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
Embiid only played six minutes before he awkwardly fell into the stanchion while guarding Wenyen Gabriel at the rim. He did not return.
On the Blazers’ side, Hassan Whiteside missed his second straight game with a hip strain.
Fixing the watch
After letting one slip away to the Clippers yesterday, it was all but a forgone conclusion that Lillard would take his frustrations out on whoever he could, as soon as possible, and it just happened to be the Sixers’ misfortune that they would become his group therapy session.
With no Simmons to slow him down, Dame had his way with Philadelphia’s defense. Early on, he ran circles around defenders on his way to the basket — later, he peppered them with outside step-backs and pull-ups.
After missing two pivotal free throws down the stretch against Los Angeles, Lillard was a near-perfect 15-16 in this one.
He even scored on this Tobias Harris ricochet:
It was just his night.
Moving on up
With eight points in the first half, Carmelo Anthony passed both Paul Pierce and John Havlicek for 15th place on the NBA all-time scorers list, with fewer than 100 points now separating him from Tim Duncan in 14th place. He finished with 20 points and 7 boards.
Much further down the list, Gary Trent Jr.’s nuclear ascension experienced its first dud of the bubble, as he struggled with his shot on the way to just 5 points.
Portland will get a day off before taking on the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. Pacific.