Updated: 5:35 p.m.
The Sixers are 7-5 this year without Ben Simmons, who will have surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee. They’ll aim to improve to 43-27 overall on Sunday night when they play the 32-39 Portland Trail Blazers.
Glenn Robinson III is available after missing the Sixers' first four seeding games with a left hip pointer injury. Hassan Whiteside (left hip strain) is out for Portland.
Here are the essentials for Sunday’s game:
When: 6:30 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6
Where: Visa Athletic Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
The Sixers came back from a 21-point second-half deficit to win their first meeting with the Blazers this season back on Nov. 2. Furkan Korkmaz’s three-pointer from the right corner with 0.4 seconds to go lifted them to 5-0.
There are few similarities between the situation that night and this one, other than that the Sixers were missing a star and relied more heavily than usual on Al Horford. With Joel Embiid serving a suspension after fighting with the Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns, Horford had 25 points, seven assists, five rebounds and one turnover. Tobias Harris posted 23 points on 10 for 15 shooting.
As the playoffs draw nearer, the standings remain bunched at several spots in both conferences.
The No. 6 seed Sixers are a half-game behind both the Pacers and Heat, who will play each other on Monday night. Since the Sixers have dropped their season series against Indiana and Miami, they’d lose a potential tiebreaker.
Portland’s main concern is qualifying for the playoffs. After falling to the Clippers on Saturday despite Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent all scoring over 20 points, the Blazers are ninth in the Western Conference, 1.5 games behind the Grizzlies and a half-game ahead of the Suns and Spurs. If the eighth and ninth seeds are within four games of each other at the end of the seeding games, those two teams will have a play-in tournament.
What’s the response?
We highlighted four main on-court issues for the Sixers to consider without Simmons here.
On a more fundamental level, it’ll be interesting to see how the team reacts to learning that one of its two All-Stars will undergo knee surgery. Brett Brown talks frequently about wanting to maintain his team’s “spirit.” That will be tested yet again.
“You’re numb to it,” he said as Simmons was considering treatment options before Friday’s game. “You just move. It ends up, as I’ve said, like ready, fire, aim. You figure it out. You take something and you figure it out, you coach who you have. And I do genuinely believe that this can galvanize our group and bring us, in a sort of inverted way, together, knowing that Ben is not going to be with us.”
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