The shorthanded Sixers took down the Portland Trail Blazers 113-103 behind an impressive display of ball movement and solid team defensive effort, as they set a new season high in assists and forced 14 turnovers.
Joel Embiid missed the game on a scheduled rest day as the team enters a challenging stretch of seven games in 11 days. Just minutes before tipoff, news broke that Tobias Harris would also miss the game due to health and safety protocols, with NBA insider Shams Charania adding that Harris is “expected to miss several games.”
Andre Drummond started in Embiid’s place, and Furkan Korkmaz replaced Tobias Harris. The new starting lineup jumped on a cold Trailblazers team early, storming out to a 19-11 lead behind a three-point barrage from Seth Curry and Danny Green.
The Trailblazers heated up and battled back, with Anfernee Simons giving them a spark off the bench with eight first-half points. At the break, the Sixers led 54-53 thanks to a balanced scoring attack and high-level ball movement — they had 20 assists on 24 made shots at the break.
The Sixers lost yet another player in the third quarter when Danny Green exited with hamstring tightness, leaving them with just one player from last season’s starting lineup. However, a strong performance from Georges Niang and Andre Drummond in the second half of the quarter helped the Sixers extend their lead to five by the end of the third.
The Trail Blazers evened the score early in the fourth, but a late Furkan Korkmaz run of back-to-back triples gave the Sixers some separation down the stretch. Damian Lillard heated up after a quiet game to bring the Blazers back into the game, but the Sixers had enough left in the tank to close out the visitors with some clutch shot-making.
Curry paced the Sixers with 23 points, while Niang added 21 points off the bench. The team finished the game with a season-high 34 assists on 43 made shots.
Grades from the shorthanded Sixers’ victory over the Trail Blazers
Andre Drummond: A
34 mins | 14 pts | 15 reb | 7 ast | 5 stl | 1 blk | 0 TO | 5-11 FG | 0-0 3PT| 4-4 FT | 4 PF | +15 |
Filling in for Joel Embiid in the starting lineup, Andre Drummond had big shoes to fill. He rose to the occasion, performing about as well as anyone could’ve expected given the circumstances by stuffing the stat sheet, cleaning the glass, and keeping the offense flowing while flirting with a triple double.
Drummond probably could’ve scored even more than he did, since the Sixers ran a lot of high pick-and-roll with Drummond as the roll man and struggled to get him the ball despite the big man frequently being open after setting solid screens. He did a great job passing the ball, operating well out of wing DHOs and post touches en route to seven assists.
Seth Curry: B+
34 mins | 23 pts | 6 reb | 5 ast | 0 stl | 0 blk | 1 TO | 10-17 FG | 3-10 3PT| 0-0 FT | 1 PF | +10 |
On an uncharacteristically poor night from beyond the arc that included a few ugly misses, Seth still stayed engaged offensively and stepped into his increased role well. As the team’s de facto primary offensive option with Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris both out, he handled the ball more frequently than usual in the half court and was asked to find his own offense.
Curry operated frequently from the wing, dribbling into threes and mid-range jump shots. He also worked downhill a few times, finishing some creative layups at the rim. Seth’s passing also looked better than usual — though he usually struggles to move the ball around taller, lengthier defenders, Seth threw a few nifty slip passes out of the pick-and-roll.
Georges Niang: A
31 mins | 21 pts | 5 reb | 5 ast | 0 stl | 1 blk | 1 TO | 7-16 FG | 3-9 3PT| 4-5 FT | 2 PF | +3 |
Niang continues to look like an extremely underrated offseason acquisition for the Sixers. Despite opening the game cold and shooting just 2-8 from the floor in the first half, Niang continued to hunt his shot and scored eight straight points in the third quarter to create some separation in what had been a mostly back-and-forth game to that point.
Niang hit a few triples, as expected, but also finished three tough and-ones at the basket off the dribble and knocked down a deep hook shot. He also spent quite a bit of time playing to the crowd and hyping up his teammates, a welcome sign from a player who’s spent just a few weeks playing in Philadelphia.
Matisse Thybulle: C
27 mins | 2 pts | 0 reb | 1 ast | 3 stl | 1 blk | 2 TO | 1-4 FG | 0-2 3PT| 0-0 FT | 3 PF | +8 |
Matisse Thybulle jumped out to a ridiculous defensive start, recording three steals and a block in his first 5:20 of playing time. The forwards in Portland’s second unit especially struggled with his defensive intensity, as he intercepted passes from both Larry Nance Jr. and Nassir Little. However, he cooled off a little bit after a hot start and was called for a few ticky-tack fouls in the second half while guarding C.J. McCollum.
His offense continues to be a work in progress, as Thybulle missed an easy transition layup at one point in the game and later turned the ball over on a poor pass that sailed about five feet to the right of its intended target, Georges Niang. But Matisse’s hands did look better offensively; he had a nice two-handed dunk off a pass from Shake Milton.
Shake Milton: B-
20 mins | 10 pts | 1 reb | 3 ast | 0 stl | 0 blk | 2 TO | 4-8 FG | 0-2 3PT | 2-2 FT | 1 PF | -1 |
Shake continues to look extremely comfortable in the offense since his return from a preseason ankle injury. The game seems to have slowed down for him, as he’s stopped forcing shots and hunting for foul calls as much as he did in previous seasons.
Shake threw a few high-level passes in the early going, including a few nice pocket passes out of the pick-and-roll and a pretty skip pass to Andre Drummond for a wide open dunk. He also finished well around the basket, using his length multiple times to finish around Portland’s rim protectors.
The Sixers will play their next game at home against the Chicago Bulls at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 3.