Shorthanded 76ers rely on next man up, prep for Blazers

NBA

Playing without several of their starters has created opportunities for the Philadelphia 76ers, who remain shorthanded heading into Saturday’s meeting against the host Portland Trail Blazers.

Philadelphia is likely to be without Joel Embiid (health and safety protocols), Matisse Thybulle (health and safety), Danny Green (hamstring) and Ben Simmons (personal) again when they play the fourth of six straight road games.

With so many starters out of the lineup, Sixers coach Doc Rivers has asked for more production from players such as guard Tyrese Maxey and center Charles Bassey.

Maxey has responded by averaging 25.2 points in his last five games. The second-year pro had 22 points, five rebounds and four assists in Thursday’s 103-89 win over the Denver Nuggets.

“I’m so happy for him because with everything that’s going on with our team, this allows him to have growth in his career,” Sixers teammate Georges Niang said. “Tyrese doesn’t get any grace from anybody, and he takes it on the chin and continues to grow and be better. It shows. The kid has been phenomenal.”

Embiid’s absence has resulted in more playing time for Bassey, a rookie from Western Kentucky.

The 6-foot-9 Bassey impressed Rivers after recording 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks against the Nuggets.

“What we just kept noticing is his talking on defense. For a rookie, they don’t talk. Rookies don’t say a word, usually,” Rivers said. “You rarely see a rookie five calling out coverages. He’s been coached well, or he just has a great feel for the game.”

After snapping a five-game losing streak with the win over Denver, the Sixers face another tough challenge against Portland.

The Trail Blazers are 1-7 on the road but improved to 7-1 at home with Wednesday’s 112-107 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Portland forward Larry Nance Jr. has moved into the rotation over the past week after struggling to find playing time early in the season.

Nance, who played fewer than 20 minutes in nine of his first 11 games, is slowly settling in after being acquired from Cleveland during the offseason.

Portland fans chanted Nance’s name after he tallied 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals against Chicago.

The seventh-year pro is averaging 11.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 22.9 minutes over his last five games.

“He brings his lunch pail and hard hat, and I think anybody can identify with that,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “You see a guy diving on the floor, getting blocked shots, he might get a lob dunk. Playing with heart and enthusiasm, these fans really appreciate that.”

In addition to Nance, the Trail Blazers have received a spark from third-year forward Nassir Little. The 6-foot-5 Little is averaging 7.8 points and 5.6 rebounds while providing instant energy off the bench.

“I think I come in every time, every single game, I bring the same thing,” Little said. “I may not score a lot every game, but I’m gonna play hard, I’m going to play defense, and I’m going to try my best to do whatever I need to do in order to give us some kind of a lift.”

The Trail Blazers are looking to avenge a 113-103 loss to the Sixers in Philadelphia on Nov. 1. Seth Curry scored a game-high 23 points for the hosts in the victory.

–Field Level Media

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