Portland Trail Blazers

Instant Analysis: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers escape shorthanded 76ers

Portland Trail Blazers

Yet another one that came down to the wire for the Trail Blazers! 

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said pregame he was preparing for Jusuf Nurkic to defend Joel Embiid for a good majority of Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, if not the entire game.

But then, less than two minutes into the contest, Nurkic picked up two quick fouls and went to the bench. With Trail Blazers backup center Hassan Whiteside (left hip strain) out yet again, rookie Wenyen Gabriel saw early minutes.

The Sixers were without Ben Simmons (left knee; patella subluxation), Philly was ready to depend on Embiid’s playmaking and scoring; however, the 76ers center headed back to the locker room midway through the first quarter after he awkwardly fell against the stanchion. Embiid did not return to the game with what the team called a ‘left ankle injury.’  

Philadelphia was clearly still trying to figure out life without Simmons and then they had to quickly figure out a game plan without Embiid. The Blazers held the Sixers to just 25.0 percent shooting in the first quarter as Portland took a 33-19 lead after the first 12 minutes of action.

Fortunately for the Blazers, Damian Lillard was on a scoring tear, which nobody was surprised by after Lillard said he was disappointed in himself for missing a pair of free throws in crunch time in Saturday’s loss to the Clippers. Lillard dropped 14 points in the first quarter.

 

Behind Lillard’s 22 first-half-points, the Blazers took a 67-58 lead at the break.

Philadelphia chipped away at Portland’s lead thanks to its hot shooting from deep in the third quarter and Josh Richardson’s scoring and playmaking.

Portland waas up by as many as 17 points in the first half. Heading into the final period, the Trail Blazers were clinging to a one-point lead.

It was the Josh Richardson show in the second half.

Richardson’s one mistake was fouling Lillard from behind the arc in the final three minutes, which led to Lillard completing a four-point play and ignited Lillard Time. The Blazers point guard finished with 51 points in the win. 

FINAL SCORE: TRAIL BLAZERS XX, SIXERS XX

Here are three quick takeaways from Portland's sixth seeding game from our NBC Sports NW team:

Dwight Jaynes, Insider: 

Dame to the rescue in a game the Trail Blazers could not afford to lose… Four-point play was turning point.

Jamie Hudson, Reporter

Sunday’s game didn’t go according to plan for the Sixers with Joel Embiid playing just six minutes before leaving the game with a left ankle injury. That obviously opened up the game for the Blazers. It seemed like with Damian Lillard on a mission in attack mode early, the Blazers could run away with this one. But, Philly’s role players had other ideas (particularly Josh Richardson) as the 76ers outscored the Blazers by 10 in the third quarter. Plus, the Blazers three-point shooting wasn't there today. BUT, we all knew that Lillard wasn't going to quit on this one. Between Lillard and Carmelo Anthony's heady play, Portland was able to squeak this one out. 

Mike Richman, Reporter

 The Blazers won. Let's just start there. There was not a lot to feel good about but, the victory preserves their chances to make the playoffs. The defense just can't stop anyone right now, which means they might need more nights where Damian Lillard scores 50-plus, regardless of who is on the court for the opponent.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon:]

Up Next: The Trail Blazers take the court Tuesday at 3:30p.m. when Portland squares off against the Dallas Mavericks. Catch all the action on NBC Sports Northwest and stream the game on the MyTeams app.

Also, be sure to check back throughout the rest of the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!