Portland Trail Blazers (11-9) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (16-6)
The undermanned Blazers dispatched the Washington Wizards with relative, but not complete, ease. Facing the Philadelphia 76ers is a whole other task. Doc Rivers has transformed Philadelphia into a force to be reckoned with, holding the first seed in the east and a 10-1 record at Wells Fargo Arena. The odds are against Portland, especially if more players are sidelined — Anfernee Simons being plagued by a tweaked hamstring and Damian Lillard is just generally banged up.
Thursday, February 4 - 5:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, League Pass, or see games all season on fuboTV, follow on ESPN+, or the ESPN/Disney Bundle*
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), CJ McCollum (out), Nassir Little (out), Damian Lillard (out), Derrick Jones Jr. (out)
76ers injuries: Ben Simmons (out), Mike Scott (out), Terrance Ferguson (out)
SBN Affiliate: Liberty Ballers
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UPDATE: Ben Simmons has been ruled out for tonight’s bout.
76ers Update:— Jamie Hudson (@JamieHudsonNBCS) February 4, 2021
Ben Simmons (left calf; tightness) is out.
What To Watch For
- Injuries. Nothing against CJ Elleby, but if it gets to the point where he’s starting, something is seriously wrong. Collins, Nurkic and McCollum being out is bad enough but when you add Lillard and the likes of Little, Jones Jr., and potentially Simons, this team might need to be temporarily re-named the Portland Moon Boots or Shoulder Slings.
- Defense. Find it, anywhere. Injuries and a lack of personnel clearly make things harder. But when you’re stopping the other team scoring, you don’t have to score as much yourself. And when you’ve got Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris peppering the basket, there needs to be some form of resistance. Somebody put that in a memo and get it to Terry Stotts.
- Enes Kanter. For all his defensive shortcomings, Kanter has again provided the much-needed offensive respite for this team with his consistent rebounding and ability to capitalize on second-chance opportunities. The Turkish big man has been everything advertised and more, unconsciously dropping 10.9 points and 10.3 rebounds this year - admirably and competently filling in for Nurkic.
What Others Are Saying
Philadelphia big man Joel Embiid, who has been named Eastern Conference Player of the Month, has been playing at an MVP level, writes Tom West at Liberty Ballers.
“Embiid is overwhelming teams in the post, and picking apart his opponents from the elbows and the middle of the floor as well, where he’s been used more in what Doc Rivers calls the Sixers’ “Delay” action.”
“Embiid has had a host of standout performances through the season so far. From his perfect 20-point third quarter to turn around a game against Miami, to the 40 points he averaged across two outings against Boston, to the 37 points he had in just under 27 minutes against Minnesota last week.”
Tom at Liberty Ballers writes about newly minted Australian Boomer and sophomore wing Matisse Thybulle and his work to further improve his defense under Doc Rivers.
“Offensively, Thybulle is essentially still the same (although his somewhat heightened instincts and activity as a cutter has been an early positive). But on defense, Thybulle has been getting back into impressive form since returning from his three-game absence.
He’s been locked in, as disruptive as ever off the ball, cutting down on gambles, and playing at an elite level. And in the nine games he’s played since returning, he’s averaged 2.3 steals and 1.1 blocks in 19.7 minutes per game.”
“The NBA is still predominantly a man-to-man league, and the Sixers will be expected to play mainly man. But they showed against Indiana that a team can be thrown off its game when seeing a zone.”
“It was disruptive. We didn’t make a shot out of it,” Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “I don’t think we attacked it well, either.”