This was the fifth seeding game for the 76ers in the NBA’s restart and second without Ben Simmons, who will undergo surgery in the coming days to remove a loose body in his left knee. Then the Sixers lost Joel Embiid for good in the first quarter with a left ankle injury.
Not the best news with the playoffs a week away. The Sixers still showed plenty of fight in a 124-121 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Here are some observations of the game.
J-Rich takes command. With Embiid out, somebody had to step up and Josh Richardson was aggressive offensively in both halves. The Trail Blazers were leaving Sixers’ shooters open all game and Richardson took advantage.
He was able to get his shot off the dribble at will.
Watch the lack of urgency by Portland’s CJ McCollum on the switch as Richardson makes him pay.
Richardson’s shooting from the perimeter also set up some successful drives as well.
Dame’s got game. The problem with defending Portland’s Damian Lillard is that he can blow by defenses to the basket without help. The All-Star also finds space routinely off the pick. As it turned out, the Sixers had trouble defending him either way.
Defending the high pick. Portland effectively sets picks for its players well above the top of the key, and then gets a numbers advantage going to the basket. The Sixers had trouble defending that high pick and the Trail Blazers continually had open shots.
The below video is an example. See how far from the basket Zach Collins sets the pick well above the top of the key on Richardson. Lillard then has a free run to the basket. He drew some defenders but that left rookie Wenyen Gabriel open.
The Sixers defended off the high pick much better in the second half.
Unconventional basket of the game. Lillard can score a variety of ways, but shooting off an opponents’ elbow and seeing it go in is a strange way to get two. That happened in the first quarter when Lillard drove to the basket and was actually kicking the ball out when the ball went off Tobias Harris’ arm and into the basket. This was an early indication that it would be Lillard’s night.
Early on letting the Trail Blazers of the hook. Portland entered the game 26th in the NBA in scoring defense, allowing 115.6 points per game. Too many times in the first half, the Sixers settled for shots instead of taking the ball to the basket.
The Trail Blazers are not good at stopping teams off the dribble. In the second half, the Sixers had a more aggressive mindset, making Portland work more on defense and that was one reason the Sixers got back in the game. The Sixers were able to beat defenders and either get to the basket or find open shooters.
Alec Burks was among the Sixers who was successful in the second half taking it to the basket and was explosive especially in the fourth quarter.
Strong move. Brett Brown started Matisse Thybulle to begin the second half and he gave he Sixers some solid production even without making a third-quarter field goal. As expected, he helped pick up the team’s defensive intensity.