The Sixers hosted the Portland Trail Blazers in the team’s home opener on Sunday night and were looking to win for the first time in a row after Saturday night’s victory in Toronto.
James Harden update
Harden spent the day with the team in walkthrough and shootaround, head coach Nick Nurse confirmed before the game. Harden continues to improve his fitness and could soon be able to play on the pitch.
“All signs are positive in terms of conditioning,” Nurse said.
Joel Embiid’s status was unclear… and then he dominated
Embiid was listed as questionable before the game, with “rest” as the injury designation. After a game and a late flight on Saturday, the Sixers considered giving the reigning NBA MVP the night off. Ultimately, though, Embiid played. It was always hard to imagine him resting for the home opener.
Embiid didn’t look like a player who was considering sitting out. He absolutely obliterated Portland’s defense, scoring 24 points in the first half alone. He finished the night with 35 points to go and 15 rebounds. Embiid was also able to counter the Blazers’ double-teams with crisp passes, consistently delivering good results and finding his teammates for the second straight game. Once again it was Tyrese Maxey who provided good visibility from three-point distance. He finished the game with seven assists.
In addition, Embiid had his best game of the young season on defense, hitting six shots and appearing sprightly.
An old friend returns
Former Sixer Matisse Thybulle returned to Philadelphia tonight for his second game as a guest. Thybulle, who just signed a four-year deal in restricted free agency, is in Portland’s starting lineup and expected to be an important part of their rebuild.
“I love coaching Tisse,” Portland head coach Chauncey Billups said.
The bank has problems, but one player does the little things
On a night when none of their backup players did anything notable, Patrick Beverley did the little things – especially on defense, he was his typical self: a pest who just made everything a little harder for Portland’s guards, whose efficiency had plummeted.
It wasn’t a good night for the rest of the sister’s reserve. Kelly Oubre Jr. struggled from the field and failed to knock down some awfully good looks. Paul Reed struggled to get off the bench and the Sixers were clearly outplayed when Embiid was off the floor. Jaden Springer, back in the rotation, had a stunning block early in the game, but then committed four quick fouls and had to be fended off. Danuel House Jr. was the second winger, not Danny Green, and couldn’t make any significant plays.
Tobias Harris shines
Harris has quietly had an excellent start to the 2023-24 season, and tonight he was once again extremely efficient, scoring 24 points on 8-11 shooting.
Harris has of course had good periods like this before, but it’s remarkable how successful he is at the moment: a lot of that comes from his own creativity, where he often fails to impress. If he can continue to create his own looks and execute them quickly, the Sixers’ offense will become much more difficult to defend.
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