By Jerry Wein
The Sixers played last night without Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, crybaby Ben Simmons and Danny Green after the third quarter.
That’s four starters from last season’s No. 1 in the East team
So, Seth Curry stepped up for 23 points to lead the Sixers to a 113-103 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Embiid, the team’s leading scorer and four-time All-Star, was out due to rest — his first missed game of the season. The 76ers also were without Harris (health and safety protocols), who was a late scratch, and lost starter Green in the third quarter due to hamstring tightness, but not before he scored 11 points.
“It was great,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “I was joking with (Philadelphia co-owner) Michael Rubin. I said, ‘You only had 105 million (dollars) not in the game tonight.’ It was just a good team effort.”
It was the first of three games in four nights for Philadelphia, which has won three straight. Georges Niang added 21 points for the 76ers.
“It was one of the games that I thought every single guy did something to help us win the game,” Rivers said.
Norman Powell led the Trail Blazers with 22 points. Damian Lillard had 20 points and 10 assists and C.J. McCollum also had 20 points.
“It’s a perfect trap game,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “You let your guard down a little naturally, and you’ve got guys dying to play 25, 30 minutes. They jump in there and show they want to get more minutes. That’s exactly what happened.”
Niang’s three-point play broke an 86-all tie early in the fourth and started a 14-4 76ers run that ended when Niang converted another three-point play after being fouled by Lillard to make it 100-90 with 6:44 left.
“Obviously, sometimes shots are not going to go in,” Niang said. “But you still got to go out and be aggressive. So I definitely wanted to do that going into the second half. A couple of them fell. Sometimes you get lucky when some shots fall.”
Niang even received a few “M-V-P! M-V-P!” chants that normally are reserved for Embiid in Philadelphia.
“Joel told me to never let that happen, again,” Niang joked. “The fans here have been great and have welcomed me with open arms. I’m super thankful.”
Portland pulled within 104-101 with four minutes left on Lillard’s layup, Philadelphia netted the next seven and were ahead 111-101 on Curry’s 3-pointer with about two minutes to play, and then Curry put the game away with a driving layup that put Philadelphia up 10 with 1:06 left.
Embiid, Philadelphia’s oft-injured big man, has vowed to be a more consistent presence in the lineup after playing in just 51 games last season — a contributing factor to him finishing runner-up to Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets last season.
Embiid is averaging 21 points and 8.7 rebounds thus far, and was replaced in the starting lineup by Andre Drummond, who had 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Furkan Kokmaz had 15 points in filling in for Harris, who is averaging 19.8 points and 7.7 rebounds.
Ben Simmons (personal reasons) still isn’t with the 76ers, although he did take part in the shootaround once again.
Lillard, who has gotten off to a relatively slow start, ended his streak of three straight games with at least 30 points against Philadelphia. He struggled in the first half, missing 9 of 11 shots and 6 of 7 from 3-point range, as Philadelphia entered halftime up 54-53. Lillard finished 7 of 20 from the field and 2 of 9 from 3-point range.