Mike Muscala

Sixers at Blazers: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

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Sixers at Blazers: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Updated: 7:41 p.m.

PORTLAND, Ore. — It’s the second night of a back-to-back for the Trail Blazers, who lost to the Warriors (20-16) last night, after beating them in overtime two days prior. The Sixers (23-13) are now 1-1 on this four-game road trip after beating the Jazz.

• When: 9 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 8:30 p.m.
• Where: Moda Center - Portland, Oregon
• Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
• Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

Here are three storylines to watch for in tonight’s game.

No Jo Jo

Joel Embiid is out with left knee soreness and Amir Johnson will start in his place. Johnson has started one other game this season, the Sixers' 117-11 win over the Pistons on Dec. 7. He was scoreless with three rebounds and three steals, fouling out in 16 minutes.

With Embiid out, the Sixers are also going to need a big game from Mike Muscala tonight. Be on the lookout for that Ben Simmons-Muscala connection that started to heat up last game against the Jazz.

Jimmy Butler from jump

When talking with Brown at practice yesterday, there was one thing from their win over the Jazz that he said he had some "buyer's remorse" for — not getting Jimmy Butler involved earlier in the game. Brown said they need to do a better job of tapping into his skillset early and making him confident from the get-go. Look for the Sixers to go to Butler early tonight.

Dame Dolla

Lillard dropped 40 points in last night’s loss to Golden State — his fifth 40-point game of the season — making him just 24 points shy from already scoring 1,000 points for the season. Lillard is on track for a record year, averaging 27.1 points (sixth most in the NBA). The task of guarding Lillard, which will likely be on Butler’s shoulders, is going to be a tough one.

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.

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Sixers stock watch: Joel Embiid dominant, but bench needs to add at least two pieces

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Sixers stock watch: Joel Embiid dominant, but bench needs to add at least two pieces

It was a rough week for the Sixers, who beat the Pistons Monday then dropped two straight games with Jimmy Butler out. They did get a nice win on the road in Cleveland Sunday with Butler back in the lineup.

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons played at a high level but the team’s depth continues to be a huge issue.

Here’s this week’s stock watch.

Stock up

Joel Embiid

After a tough three-game stretch, Embiid has looked like the MVP-caliber player we saw to start the season. The rest appeared to do Embiid well as the All-Star center averaged 30.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game over the last four.

It was clear Embiid was fatigued. Even before the game last Monday, Embiid said he was dealing with “a migraine and diarrhea” and he got off to a sluggish start. Over the last three games, he’s been pretty much unstoppable … without a double team at least. 

That has to be the biggest concern for Embiid, who did have back-to-back games with six turnovers. In losses to the Nets and Pacers, Embiid was a monster in the first half but faced more double teams in the second. I’m not blaming the turnovers completely on Embiid. Brett Brown has to find ways to combat the doubles and the rest of the team needs to make shots.

Speaking of …

Stock down

The Sixers’ bench

In fairness, most of the players coming off the bench are in positions nobody thought they’d be in. 

T.J. McConnell is playing big-time minutes after being relegated to third-string point guard behind Markelle Fultz to start the season. Nobody expected Landry Shamet to contribute as much as he has after being a late first-round pick. Furkan Korkmaz couldn’t crack the rotation and his option for next season wasn’t picked up. 

McConnell is the team’s spark plug, but, as mentioned on this site many times, he gets exposed when asked to play too many minutes. Shamet has been a bright spot, but he’s still so young and not physically strong enough to handle that aspect of the NBA game. The same can be said for Korkmaz.

Mike Muscala has been solid at times but he’s dealt with two injuries and, more recently, an illness. He should continue to be a part of the rotation, but it’s pretty clear the Sixers need at least two more pieces. 

Last year, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova gave the Sixers’ bench a huge boost, both signing after being bought out by the Hawks (for the record, I believe the Sixers were right to not give either player the multi-year deals they both received this past offseason).

Will Elton Brand be able to find this year’s version of Belinelli and Ilyasova? Tough to say, but if he wants his team to compete with the East’s elite, he’ll have to make something happen.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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Zoo's Views: A conversation with the bilingual Mike Muscala

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Zoo's Views: A conversation with the bilingual Mike Muscala

On this edition of Zoo's Views, Marc Zumoff talks with Mike Muscala. How did he become the first-ever player from Bucknell to play in the NBA? How did he end up going to Bucknell?

Muscala discusses finding out he got traded to the Sixers. What is it like playing with Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid?

Also, he's fluent in Spanish and proves it!

1:00 - Finding out he got traded to the Sixers.
4:00 - Was a Spanish major in college. Why?
7:00 - Growing up in Minnesota. How did he end up at Bucknell?
14:00 - Favorite things about Philadelphia.
17:00 - Playing with big personalities.

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