Updated: 8:30 p.m.
The 4-0 Sixers are the only undefeated team left in the NBA. They’ll look to keep it that way Saturday night as they begin a four-game West Coast road trip in Portland.
Here are tonight’s essentials for the Sixers’ game against the 3-2 Trail Blazers:
When: 10 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 9:30 p.m.
Where: Moda Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
The backup plan
The Sixers’ worst loss of last season in terms of margin of defeat was Dec. 30 in Portland. They lost 129-95 and trailed by as many as 43 points.
Joel Embiid was out that night with left knee soreness, and he’ll be out Saturday as he serves the first game of his two-game suspension for a fight Wednesday with Karl-Anthony Towns.
Amir Johnson started at center in that ugly loss for the Sixers, while Al Horford is expected to start Saturday. Those players are close in age but Horford is clearly in a different class.
The key to containing Lillard
Damian Lillard is averaging 29.0 points per game and 17.2 of them have come out of the pick-and-roll. He’s run more pick-and-roll than any player in the league.
There are some similarities to the challenge the Sixers had Monday against Trae Young, another very good pick-and-roll player with extended range. Lillard has shot 10 for 24 (41.7 percent) from 26 feet and out.
As the Sixers did against Young, it would make sense to give Josh Richardson and Matisse Thybulle most of the responsibility against Lillard. Horford’s pick-and-roll defense should be helpful against Lillard, regardless of who Portland starts at center — Hassan Whiteside is out with a left knee injury and Zach Collins is out with a left shoulder injury.
A good time to pivot?
While we’re on the topic of pick-and-rolls, the Sixers have run the fewest of any team in the league. They also lead the NBA in post-ups.
Perhaps, with Embiid out, that ratio will shift a bit tonight and we’ll see some more pick-and-roll centered around Richardson and Tobias Harris. In general, this might be a game in which Harris steps more into the spotlight.
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.