At the half way point of their six game road trip, the 76ers can complete a 2-0 regular-season series sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday night.
Game time is 10:00pm ET at the Moda Center. Catch the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia + and listen on 97.5 The Fanatic.
Here’s three storylines:
Maxey on Lillard for 2nd time
What a month it’s been for Tyrese Maxey. Since a strong defensive performance on Damian Lillard in the Sixers’ win over the Blazers on November 1, Maxey has averaged 20.7 points, 4.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds, shooting 54.0% from the floor and 50% from three point-range. He’s gone from making only 30.1% of his threes as a rookie and learning not to rely mostly on his floater to one of the NBA’s most efficient starting point guards early this season.
Assuming Damian Lillard plays — he was listed as probable with an abdominal injury — his rematch with Maxey will be big. The Sixers also hope to have a bit of defensive assistance on Lillard in the form of Matisse Thybulle, who’s missed the past seven games due to health and safety protocols.
Thybulle participated in the Sixers’ Saturday morning shootaround, per a team official, and will play Saturday night.
Bassey should build on breakout night
Charles Bassey air-balled a three-pointer Thursday during the fourth quarter of the Sixers’ victory in Denver, but it would still undoubtedly be fair to classify him as the Sixers’ hot hand at center.
With Joel Embiid set to miss a seventh game in a row after testing positive for COVID-19, the 21-year-old Bassey could again play an important role. He was outstanding in Thursday night’s win over the Nuggets behind Andre Drummond, posting 12 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks in 19 minutes.
As the Sixers saw a few weeks ago, Larry Nance Jr. is a small-ball center option for the Blazers. If Nance is Portland’s primary backup five, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers might have to pul Bassey on him. Or he may prefer Bassey to reflect Cody Zeller’s minutes.
There are other possibilities, too, including playing Georges Niang and Paul Reed at center, but a DNP for Bassey would be surprising after such a strong game.
Big game on this trip
The Blazers are feeling good about themselves after moving to 8-8 with a comeback win Wednesday over the Chicago Bulls.
A win in Portland could change this Sixers trip, giving the team a shot at three straight heading into a Monday night matchup with the 6-10 Sacramento Kings. The Western Conference-leading Golden State Warriors will be a tough task next Wednesday.
Whatever the result is, it’s positive that the team seems to be trending in a healthier direction. Though Danny Green is still out with left hamstring tightness, Thybulle coming back is excellent news.
And, while it’s not totally relevant to the Sixers, two-way player Grant Riller appeared Friday night for the Delaware Blue Coats, his first action since a meniscus tear during the preseason.
The big question that remains, of course, is when Embiid will get the nod to go.