Last season, Portland was one of the teams the Sixers had tough battles with.
On Jan. 20, the Sixers won at home, 93-92, on a three from Robert Covington with four seconds remaining. On March 9, the Sixers lost in overtime, 114-108, in Portland.
Damian Lillard says that teams can no longer face the Sixers without expecting a fight.
“I think in the past we took them lightly. They kind of jumped out and played hard and they beat us,” Lillard said following a Tuesday-evening practice at the Sixers training complex in Camden. “This year, you have no choice but to respect what they’ve done and how they’re playing. They’re not doing it like it’s luck, they’re out there hooping.”
Lillard sprained his right ankle in the second quarter Monday night against the Grizzlies. He returned in the second half and helped the Trail Blazers earn a 100-92 victory on the first of a five-game road trip.
The second game of that trip takes place on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center against the Sixers.
Despite the rolled ankle, noticeable discomfort, and around-the-clock treatment, Lillard seems determined to face the Sixers. Lillard, who did not participate in practice, said he is looking forward to the matchup.
“I told y’all that yesterday,” Lillard said, referring to previously saying he planned on playing in Philadelphia. “I pretty much got babied last night so it was good…I feel good.”
Noting the size and athleticism of Ben Simmons, Lillard also said the Sixers have surrounded their young players with a strong set of veterans in J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson that makes them difficult to defend.
“They’re a completely different team,” he said.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts agrees.
“They have a really good mix of passing and shooting and size, so it’s going to be a challenge. They can hurt you inside, outside, and in transition,” he said. “They have length at every position, other than J.J. It’s a very interesting mix and it’s going to be interesting how the matchups go.”
As far defensively planning for a guy like Simmons, Stotts said he will probably throw multiple defenders at the lengthy rookie. Maurice Harkless and former Sixer Evan Turner will likely be the first choices.
“[Simmons] is a pretty good player. He’s athletic, he’s aggressive, he’s a really good passer, good at getting to the basket,” Harkless said. “I’m looking forward to the matchup tomorrow.”