Sixers blow past Blazers en route to 10th win
The Philadelphia 76ers (10-7) took care of business on Wednesday night, dispatching the Portland Trailblazers (10-8) by a final score of 101-81 in front of a sellout crowd of 20,605. The Sixers started off hot and never looked back, getting out to an early 16-0 lead as Portland missed their first 15 shots of the game.
The Sixers, 17 games into the season, find themselves three games above .500, the first time that's happened since the beginning of the Brett Brown era, when the team started 3-0. Brown reflected on how it feels to win 10 games at this point after winning 10 total games just two short years ago.
"I think everyone can share in this. We've all done the same thing together. This city has sort of lived the same life that the coaching staff for the period of time since I've been here. Nobody's ahead of ourselves. We're happy where we're at, we're certainly not content with where we're at...the record at this stage, we're happy with it."
Despite picking up his fourth foul with 2:26 to go in the third, Joel Embiid remained in the game with the Sixers up by 10 and the Trail Blazers starting to threaten. While it may have been a risky decision to keep him in with an entire quarter left to play, Brett Brown said the choice was made with his gut feeling.
"There's nothing right or wrong with that. It's a coach's gut feel," Brown said following the game. "It was as much as I felt he was playing with a pace and my gut feel was that he wasn't going to foul, I felt comfortable he was not going to foul. I also felt comfortable that we needed him at that stage, so the combination of the two, it allowed us I think to grab on to a little bit of a lead."
Embiid picked up his fifth foul with 8:31 to go and headed to the bench before returning with 5:33 remaining in the fourth and the Sixers up by 14. Once that lead jumped up to 20, Joel exited. The 7-foot-2 native of Cameroon finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, shooting 11-for-19 from the floor and 5-for-5 from the charity stripe. Both Embiid and Brett Brown focused on the teams' defense, with Joel making a statement on where he believes he ranks among the other top defenders in the NBA.
"I think defensively, the whole game, we were great," Embiid told the media following the 101-81 victory. "Not to be cocky, but I think I'm the best defensive player in the league."
Meanwhile, Ben Simmons filled the stat sheet once again, finishing with 16 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Amir Johnson had a strong night in relief of Embiid, grabbing 11 boards while also tallying three steals and two blocks in 18 minutes of action. T.J. McConnell contributed with 13 points and seven asists.
On the Blazers end, after shooting 2-for-17 to start, they finished the game at 33.7 percent from the floor and 26.9 percent from beyond the arc.
The Sixers have Thursday and Friday off before continuing their homestand against the Orlando Magic on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m.
Brandon Apter is a contributor to 97.3 ESPN and managing editor at SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @bapter23.