PORTLAND, Ore. -- The 76ers played without Joel Embiid for the second time this season. Unlike the first time, the all-star center’s presence was missed.
The Portland Trail Blazers manhandled his teammates, 129-95, Sunday night at the Moda Center. Embiid, who watched some of the game from the Sixers bench, was sidelined with left knee soreness.
The loss dropped the Sixers to 23-14 and marked their fifth straight loss to the Blazers (21-16) here in Portland. The visitors had a bad mix of horrid offense and non-existent defense in the 34-point loss, their worst of the season.
They shot 35.4 percent from the field, compared to Portland, which made 59 percent of its field goals.
On this night, the outcome was all but decided in the second quarter. The Blazers went into halftime up, 70-41. The 41 points were the fewest the Sixers have scored in a half this season. Portland went on to lead by as many as 43 points.
Jimmy Butler will definitely like to correct his performance. The eighth-year veteran struggled mightily, finishing with just five points on 2-for-12 shooting. The four-time All-Star swingman missed his first seven shot attempts. His first made basket came on a driving floater with 4 minutes, 8 seconds left in the second quarter to pull the Sixers within 21 points (59-38).
“The entire game we played with low energy, myself included,” Butler said. “The good part about it is that it’s only one game and we can fix it.”
JJ Redick had 11 points despite making just three of 11 shots. He missed five of his seven three-pointers.
“Shots didn’t fall for Jimmy or JJ,” said Ben Simmons, who had a team-high 19 points. “If you ask him, I know he’s going to say he had a terrible game. It happens. Unfortunately, it was JJ and Jimmy who weren’t knocking down shots -- two of our best guys on the floor.”
Simmons said it was obvious the Sixers missed Embiid.
“So it means other guys need to step up,” he said of the role players. “I think it’s one of those games where guys didn’t step up.”
Portland’s CJ McCollum became the latest perimeter player to scorch the Sixers. The shooting guard led all scorers with 35 points in just 27:50 of action. Meanwhile, three-time all-star point guard Damian Lillard had 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists to go with seven turnovers.
Al-Farouq Aminu added 16 points and eight rebounds, while Jusuf Nurkic also took full advantage of Embiid’s absence. The Blazers' center had 14 points on 7-for-11 shooting to go with seven rebounds in 21:09.
The Sixers were outrebounded, 59-36.
The biggest takeaway for coach Brett Brown was the reality of how much Embiid means to the Sixers.
“I said, and I’ll say it again. I think he’s the defensive player of the year,” Brown said. " You feel him whether you look at the points in the paint, it’s 62-30 [in favor of Portland], whether you look at the rebounding margin. I think the guys that we had, we just struggled defending them."
The combination of missing a lot of shots and an inability to guard the Blazers was lethal.
Embiid also missed the Sixers' 117-111 road win against the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 7 in order to rest. Just like that night, Amir Johnson started in his place. On Sunday, Johnson was the lone starter on either team to see fourth-quarter action.
This time, Embiid’s absence came one day after he missed practice here at the University of Portland.
“We will figure out what’s going to happen tomorrow and move from there,” Brown said. “It’s not anything that we’re concerned about.”
Brown said his being sidelined was a reaction to Embiid’s and the medical staff’s belief it would be best to sit out Sunday’s game. Embiid said he was fine. However, the standout is unsure if he’ll play in Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center.
This isn’t the first time Embiid’s left knee has bothered him.
He had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in the knee on March 24, 2017, in Los Angeles after being sidelined for nearly two months. The team announced on March 1 that he would miss the rest of the 2016-17 season.
On Sunday, the Sixers and Blazers combined to make their first eight shot attempts. The Sixers went 5-for-5 while the Blazers were 3-for-3.
The first miss came on Butler’s 27-foot, three-point attempt with 9:16 into the first quarter.
The Sixers went on to miss their next seven shot attempts before Simmons scored a layup with 4:50 left in the quarter. His basket pulled them within three points (19-16). The Blazers went on to take a 31-20 cushion after one quarter.
It was a quarter where the visitors couldn’t sustain their early shot making and were unable to make defensive stops. They made just eight of 21 shots in the quarter (38.1 percent) while the Blazer made 72.2 percent (13 of 18) of their shots.
Portland extended their lead to 29 points (70-41) with 1:05 left in the half. The Blazers took a 39-point cushion (106-67) into the fourth quarter.
Former Sixers Evan Turner and Nik Stauskas had eight and six points, respectively, for the Blazers.
“We win together and we lose together, honestly,” Simmons said. “Defensively, we weren’t up to it. I don’t think we played hard enough. I know we had guys who were tired from travel, but that’s not an excuse to not come in here and at least play hard defensively.”
The Sixers were well rested compared to the Blazers.