The winless Portland Trail Blazers will continue their search for scoring in the absence of Anfernee Simons as they open a three-game trip, starting Sunday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Trail Blazers made the cross-country flight Saturday shackled with an 0-2 record, the first loss having been more painful than the second by virtue of Simons breaking his right thumb during a 123-111 setback against the Clippers in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Portland then immediately experienced the impact of losing its top returning scorer when the Trail Blazers put up just 97 points in their home opener, a 102-97 loss to the Orlando Magic on Friday.
The Trail Blazers shot just 39.8 percent overall and went just 9 of 32 on 3-pointers.
Simons is expected to miss four-to-six weeks.
Newcomer Malcolm Brogdon helped make up for the loss of Simons’ scoring with 18 points off the bench vs. the Magic.
Shaedon Sharpe, the team’s leading scorer with 24 points, said afterward the team accomplished its primary goal — avoiding an emotional letdown resulting from Simons’ injury.
“The whole goal for today’s game was to come out, compete, and just give everything you’ve got,” he said. “Share the ball. Play hard on defense. I think we did that.”
The Trail Blazers will be facing a 76ers team that was able to celebrate its first win on the early morning flight home from Toronto after Saturday’s 114-107 victory.
Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid each scored 34 points in the win, with Maxey asked to go 41 minutes. Embiid played 35 minutes, one fewer than Tobias Harris.
If the 76ers need a reinforcement in their home opener, it’s possible James Harden could be around to deliver it.
The veteran has yet to play this season, but he did return to practice earlier in the week before being told to stay home from the 76ers’ two-game trip to further prepare himself for a pending debut.
Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse has repeatedly said in recent days he has no idea when Harden will be deemed ready, and he’s done speculating.
“We can sit around and guess and talk about it every day, and we really don’t know,” he said. “I hate to keep saying, like, who knows what tonight is going to bring and tomorrow is going to bring and all of that stuff, with where we are at on this, so we’re just keeping it day by day.”
Presuming he’s a go on the second night of a back-to-back, Embiid will be tasked with going head-to-head with Portland’s Deandre Ayton, who dazzled his new fans with 14 points and 15 rebounds in his first home game as a Trail Blazer.
Embiid and Ayton have dueled just seven times in their careers, with the reigning Most Valuable Player having dominated to the tune of 36 points and 13.9 rebounds per game to Ayton’s 13.4 points and eight rebounds.
Interestingly, Ayton’s team — the Phoenix Suns at the time — still managed to go 4-3 in those games.