The Portland Trail Blazers (10-7) head to Wells Fargo Center to take on the Philadelphia 76ers (9-7) tonight at 7:00 p.m. Both teams are coming off victories and looking to prove their worth in their respective conferences.
The Blazers are coming off a 100-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.
The Sixers are coming off a 107-86 mauling of the Utah Jazz, also on Monday. It's the first of two meetings for these teams this year.
Tortoise versus Hare
These two teams have completely opposite styles of play.
Portland doesn't necessarily play at a blazing speed, pun intended. The Sixers do.
According to basketball-reference.com, the Sixers play with the fourth fastest pace while the Blazers have the seventh slowest.
The Sixers are seventh in scoring per game (108.9), the Trailblazers rank 21st (102.8). The Sixers are second in assists per game (26.1), the Trailblazers are dead last (18.1). Philadelphia has made 23 more field goals than Portland in one less game.
Looking at just these statistics may make the game seem like a blowout in the making. But this up-tempo style of play does not come without negatives for the Sixers.
The Blazers are giving up the second least points per game (97.2) while the Sixers are giving up the fifth most (108.9). The Sixers are averaging the most turnovers in the league (18.1) while the Blazers are 12th (15.8).
Bad defense and turnovers are two things that can make scoring 108.9 points per game all for naught. It'll be interesting to see these contrasting styles of play collide.
Exciting players aplenty, if injuries subside
Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are all capable of making plays that make you ask, "Did he really just do that?!?"
Put them all on the same court at once and something extraordinary is likely to happen.
Unfortunately, we might have to wait until the teams' second match-up three days after Christmas to see these all these players in a full game, at full strength.
Lillard, who's averaging 24.4 points, 6.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds, sprained his ankle in Monday's victory over the Grizzlies. He continued to play on it even though some staff disagreed.
"Some of our staff were like, ‘We’d rather have you in Philly.’ Nothing is guaranteed. We needed this win. I wanted to be out here and impact the game, any way I could," Lillard told NBCSN Northwest.
If he does indeed sit out, that will mean we will see even more of Lehigh grad CJ McCollum. McCollum is averaging 22.6 points, 2.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 51% from three.
The Sixers have been vague about Embiid's minute situation. It seems the team could hold him out at any given time, even though he has said he's the decision-maker behind his playing time, not the team.
Well, the team listed him as questionable for Monday's game against the Jazz with a sore knee. He still played 27 minutes and had a 15 point, 11 rebound double-double.
He will play against the Blazers. But how much? Let's hope both are on the court.
If not, a Simmons-McCollum duel will suffice.
Is home-court the biggest X-factor?
This is the third game of a six-game homestand for Philadelphia. It's the second of a five-game road trip for Portland.
The Sixers are an even 3-3 at home this season, while the Blazers are an even 3-3 on the road.
Something's gotta give.
It's difficult to play on the east coast when you're a west coast team like the Blazers. The closest game they've had to the east coast this season was against the Indiana Pacers, a 114-96 win.
Other X-factors include former Sixers Evan Turner and Maurice Harkless. Harkless has started all 17 games for the Blazers this year and Turner is their sixth man.
They've been playing mediocrely all year, but I expect they'll be trying to exact some revenge on their former team.
For the Sixers, look for Amir Johnson and TJ McConnell to continue their strong play. Johnson was great off the bench against the Jazz with 13 rebounds and four blocks.
McConnell's paint penetration has been key for opening up shots on the perimeter all year and the team was plus-17 when he was in the game against the Jazz.
Blazers are the underdog
According to basketball-reference.com, The Sixers' strength of schedule is second while the Trailblazers are last.
The Trailblazers are 6-4 in their last ten games. The Sixers are 7-3. They have split the season series the past two years.
Overall, their head-to-head record is 57-52 in favor of Philadelphia. Westgate has the line at Philadelphia -4.
|Matchup Preview | November 22, 2017|
Where: Wells Fargo Center
When: 7 p.m. ET
Watch: NBCSP (Marc Zumoff & Alaa Abdelnaby)
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic (Tom McGinnis)