Joel Embiid owns the night
The third quarter ended with Embiid blocking Damian Lillard’s shot with the ferocity of a thousand men, then Saric stole the Trail Blazers’ inbound pass. This time he didn’t taunt or bait the victim into retaliation, but the crowd showed him love all the same. Embiid also shot 11-of-19 finishing with a 28-point, 12-rebound double-double. He worked the post, hit from three, sank skyhooks, and worked the crowd. He was necessary offensively on a night when the Sixers were lacking at times. The only drawback to Embiid’s game Wednesday was when he had to sit early in the fourth quarter after being charged with his fifth foul. The big man has had four-or-more fouls in eight of his 14 games this season.
T.J. McConnell strong again
McConnell continues to be the Sixers’ most reliable bench player. He turned in another great performance, finishing with 13 points and seven assists in 26 minutes, 38 seconds. Bench production has been hard to come by with injuries holding out Justin Anderson, Nik Stauskas, and Jerryd Bayless. Since Bayless’ return he hasn’t been very efficient so McConnell has taken upon himself to carry the load. Not only does he produce offensively but Brett Brown trusts him to scrap defensively and he’s given no reason yet to not be trusted in that role.
Pace puts premium on defense
This was the second consecutive game the Sixers played at a pace they would not prefer. The Blazers are the league’s worst team in transition but play particularly good in the half court. This makes for a much slower game. Add in the fouls and turnovers called on both teams, and it was a stop-and-go contest all the way through. But like they did against the Jazz, the Sixers relied on defense to hold them through when they couldn’t play the up-tempo offensive that they’ve become accustomed to. The Sixers held the Blazers to a season-low 81 points.
Battle of the boards
Both team’s coaches said rebounding was a point of emphasis heading into Wednesday’s matchup. The Sixers and Blazers rank second and fourth respectively in rebounds per game. But, with the length of the Sixers from Robert Covington, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, the Blazers knew it was going to be difficult. The Sixers won the battle 57-48.
Portland’s first quarter lapse
The Sixers were lucky to have the 50-37 cushion at half-time. They hit just 18-of-45 shots before intermission. But as much trouble as the Sixers had connecting, the Trail Blazers were horrific in comparison. Portland started out going 0-for-13 before Shabazz Napier broke the spell. But the shooting woes weren’t over for the Blazers, as they closed out the period shooting just 19.2 percent on 5-of-26.