Blazers 129, Sixers 95: Sixers Get Their Doors Blown Off Without Joel Embiid


Playing without Joel Embiid on the road against an athletic and deep Portland team, the odds were stacked against them.

And the Sixers just couldn't keep up with the Blazers in a 129-95 drubbing at Moda Center on Sunday.

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The loss drops the Sixers to 23-14 heading into 2019.

Here are observations from perhaps the worst loss of the season.

• C.J. McCollum, not Damian Lillard, became the latest guard to scorch the Sixers. 

It wasn't the pick-and-roll that doomed the Sixers for once. The Lehigh product was able to pick on weaker perimeter defenders and score in isolation. He came into the game shooting a career-low 32 percent from three, but got going from there Sunday night (4 of 7).

He scored 26 first-half points and finished with 35 points in just 27 minutes.

• Early on, it looked like Ben Simmons would have an impactful night. He was asserting himself offensively and was using his size advantage over the Blazers' guards. 

He also showed off his defensive versatility during one sequence in the first quarter. On one defensive possession, he got stuck on the massive Jusuf Nurkic. Simmons was able to stand his ground and force a missed shot. On the next possession, he was on the high-scoring Lillard and forced a turnover. His ability to switch one through five is arguably his most underrated trait.

In what has become a nightly occurrence, Simmons did attempt two jumpers. The first one wasn't a bad miss. He recognized that Portland was clogging the paint so he pulled up and just missed. The second J wasn't taken in a bad opportunity - with Nurkic defending him and sagging way off - but the shot itself wasn't pretty. His struggles from the line also continued (5 of 10).

But hey, give the kid credit. He's recognizing that it's something that will benefit his game and that of his teammates. If the attempts keep coming, you just have to hope the makes are coming behind them.

• This was not a banner night for Jimmy Butler offensively. Without Embiid, the Sixers' hopes of winning hinged largely on Butler having a big scoring night. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

He started the game hitting just 1 of his first 8. He finished 2 for 12 for just five points. It seemed like he was really forcing the issue, sensing he had to shoulder a heavier load, and didn't allow the game to come to him. Too often it seemed like the other four Sixers were sitting around and waiting for Butler to do something.

• Speaking of Embiid, the Sixers could've really used him Sunday night. Not just for his offense, either. The team struggled to find answers for Nurkic at the five. Amir Johnson got the starting nod but didn't get back in until the game was out of hand.

Nurkic finished with 14 points on 7 of 11 in just 21 minutes. The Blazers as a team outscored the Sixers 56-28 in the paint. 

• This is the point of the story where we talk about the bench. You're tired of reading about it and we're tired of writing about it, but it's something that needs to be addressed. 

T.J. McConnell gave the team a nice spark offensively (14 points), but his size on defense has become a weak spot against teams with bigger guards. Former Sixer Evan Turner posted McConnell up on three occasions for easy buckets in the first half.

The rest of the unit provided little to nothing. With the starters struggling and against a deep team like the Blazers, the reserves were exposed in a big way.

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