By: Kylan Watson
The Philadelphia 76ers were riding high with a three-game winning streak. However, they faced a Portland Trailblazers team who were desperate for a win. After, dropping a winnable game yesterday to a weakened Los Angeles Clippers. The Blazers were able to ride the hot hand of guard Damian Lillard to a 124-121 victory.
The Trailblazers needed a win against the Sixers to stay in ninth place in the Western conference and force a play-in game. Lillard put the team on his back as he scored 51-points, grabbed six rebounds, and had seven assists.
Lillard was able to take advantage of some soft defensive play by the Sixers. Once he blew by the initial defender, he was able to attack the basket. The Sixers had no rim defender to stop him. Center Joel Embiid went down late in the first quarter with an ankle injury.
The Blazers took full advantage of Embiid’s absence and were able to get out to a 17-point lead. They were also able to take advantage of 15 turnovers by the Sixers. The Blazers were able to hit wide-open three pointers and attack the basket because the defense was not set.
The Sixers fought back and took back the lead mid-way through the fourth quarter. Guard Josh Richardson stepped up his offensive play in response to Embiid’s absence. He scored 34-points a career and season high, hit 6 three-pointers, and had six assists.
He played well on the defensive end, but he could not stop Lillard. Who was able to hit a late three-pointer to seal the game for the Blazers. Who are now in ninth place in the West and are fighting to get back into the playoff picture.
The injury bug continues to bite the Sixers. Now they have lost their leading scorer to an ankle injury, on top of losing Ben Simmons quite possibly for the rest of the season. They will need to rely on stellar play from Richardson, forward Al Horford, guard Alec Burks, forward Tobias Harris, and the other role players.
They have a tough three-game stretch coming up against the Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors, and Houston Rockets. Their playoff spot is pretty much assured now. The Sixers will need to have some strong play on both sides of the ball in Embiid’s absence and hope they have not lost their big man for a significant amount of time.