The Scouting Report: Philadelphia 76ers
Projected starting line-up: Ish Smith, Isaiah Canaan, Hollis Thompson, Jerami Grant, Carl Landry
Injuries: Jahlil Okafor (knee surgery out for the season), Nerlens Noel (knee) questionable, Joel Embiid (foot) out for the season
The Philadelphia 76ers are chasing history and they are trying to avoid it. Their heartbreaking loss Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets on a ridiculous 35-footer by Emmanuel Mudiay kept their chances alive to tie the worst 82-game season cord of all time (9-73, Philadelphia 76ers 1972-73).
Year 3 of “The Process” has been the toughest yet. They brought in veteran NBA executive Jerry Colangelo to bring some traditional thinking to Sam Hinkie’s new school, high-frequency trading style of team building. They traded for Ish Smith and he brought some legitimacy to the guard position and someone who could get the ball to Jahlil Okafor. However, now Smith doesn’t have Okafor to throw the ball to and the Sixers are without their best offensive post player.
Okafor also killed the Blazers in the last meeting between the two teams, going for 25 points and 10 rebounds in an upset back in January during a short Blazers road trip. Okafor went to work against Mason Plumlee and every other Blazers big man, setting the tone for a big win.
The Blazers were playing that game on the second night of a back-to-back and were set up to fail. But although the Sixers won’t have Okafor who can exploit the Blazers on the block, the 76ers still play hard for the entire game. Offensively, they don’t have a lot. But if the Blazers are lazy in shutting down dribble penetration, they could keep the Sixers in the game.
The Blazers have been good at taking care of inferior opponents as of late. They have two inferior opponents to start this home stand and Philadelphia is the first. Nerlens Noel is also injured and without him the Sixers won’t have their best defender. Given the way this season has worn him down, it doesn’t seem likely that he will play.
If the Blazers play hard, they can likely coast to a win and rest their guys in the fourth quarter. But if they don’t take the Sixers seriously, it could be an unnecessarily tough start to a home stand that they need if they want in the 6th seed.