Sixers

Can Maxey continue stellar month against Lillard and the Blazers?

Sixers

With half of their six-game road trip complete, the Sixers on Saturday night can seal a 2-0 regular-season series sweep of the Trail Blazers. 

Here are the essentials: 

  • 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 MyTeams app 

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Maxey vs. Lillard, Part 2

What a month it’s been for Tyrese Maxey. 

Since a strong defensive performance on Damian Lillard in the Sixers’ Nov. 1 win over the Blazers, Maxey has averaged 20.7 points, 4.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds, shooting 54.0 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three point-range. He’s gone from making only 30.1 percent of his threes as a rookie and learning not to rely excessively on his floater to one of the NBA’s most efficient starting point guards early this season. 

Assuming Lillard plays — he was listed as probable with an abdominal injury — his rematch with Maxey will be key. The Sixers will also have a bit of defensive assistance on Lillard in the form of Matisse Thybulle, who's available after missing the past seven games due to health and safety protocols. 

Will Bassey build on breakout night? 

Charles Bassey air-balled a three-point try 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 the Nuggets win 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, will Sixers head coach Doc Rivers be fine with Bassey opposing him? Or will he prefer for Bassey to mirror 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. 

Pivotal game on road trip 

The Blazers are feeling good about themselves after moving to 8-8 with a comeback win Wednesday over the Bulls.

A win in Portland could swing this Sixers trip, giving the team a shot at three straight heading into a Monday night matchup with the 6-10 Kings. The Western Conference-leading Warriors loom next Wednesday.

Whatever the results, 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’s return is excellent news. And, while it's more minor in terms of relevance 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 be deemed good to go.