The surging Philadelphia 76ers will look for their fourth straight victory when they host the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.
The Sixers completed a difficult five-game road trip with a 4-1 record. It was capped by wins over the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Philadelphia defeated the Timberwolves, 117-94, on Tuesday as Joel Embiid led the way with 39 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Tyrese Maxey added 27 points for the Sixers, who won handily without James Harden due to left foot soreness.
Harden’s status is unclear for the game against the Trail Blazers.
Embiid elevated his play again and had another Most Valuable Player-type performance in just three quarters. With the game well in control, Embiid was able to rest for the fourth.
Embiid was 13-for-22 from the field, including 4-for-4 from 3-point territory. He also made all nine free throws.
“I take pride every single time I step on the floor, no matter who’s guarding, I feel like I’m unguardable,” Embiid said. “I want to show them that it’s not that easy to guard me.”
In addition to Embiid’s production, the Sixers’ depth has proven to be valuable during the recent road trip. With injuries at times to Harden, Tobias Harris and P.J. Tucker, head coach Doc Rivers has called on deep reserves Paul Reed and Danuel House Jr., among others to play meaningful minutes.
“A lot of guys that contributed throughout this whole trip and that says a lot about our team and really for us to be ready in the playoffs,” Harris said. “We know who’s staying ready and being locked in.”
Despite the return of Jusuf Nurkic after a 14-game absence with a strained left calf, the Trail Blazers were handily defeated, 115-93, by the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.
Nurkic started and had five points and six rebounds in 17 minutes.
Damian Lillard led the way for Portland with 27 points.
The Trail Blazers are 2-2 on their six-game road trip.
“We didn’t play well at all,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “They’re a good team and I talked about their balance at both ends. And it showed tonight. But we just didn’t play great at all. Obviously, we didn’t make shots, but I just didn’t think we made the proper plays. We weren’t committed to playing the right way the entire night.”
The Trail Blazers limited Nurkic’s minutes and that will also be the case against the Sixers.
He hadn’t played since Feb. 1 so they’re being cautious.
“A little rusty but overall my calf felt good,” Nurkic said. “Probably missed more with the minutes restriction. It’s really hard to catch a rhythm.”
Portland hasn’t defeated a winning team since ousting the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 8.
To accomplish the feat against the Sixers, the Trail Blazers will need a balanced effort. They can’t just rely on Lillard.
“We’ve had a tendency a lot of times when things aren’t going well to just kind of throw it to Dame and watch them play,” Billups said. “And that doesn’t work against good teams. We’ve got to continue to just kind of trust each other, trust the pass.”
–Field Level Media