Damian Lillard Drops 51 to Down 76ers After Joel Embiid Exits with Ankle Injury

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2020

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid reacts during an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

Normally a monster game from Damian Lillard—the day after some major postgame trash talk—would be the main story from the Portland Trail Blazers' crucial 124-121 win on Sunday over the Philadelphia 76ers. 

And it was a major talking point, no doubt. But stealing the headlines instead was Joel Embiid, who left the game with a left ankle injury. That is a far more important story in Philadelphia—and perhaps around the NBA—than the loss, which left the Sixers (42-28) a game behind both the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers for the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds in the Eastern Conference. 

The Blazers, meanwhile, moved to 33-39 on the season and just half a game behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed. Just as importantly, they moved a half-game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs and a full game ahead of the surging Phoenix Suns for the No. 9 seed and a shot to reach the postseason through a play-in series. 

Portland's win also eliminated the New Orleans Pelicans from playoff consideration. 

It was a big day for both the Blazers and Sixers. But ultimately, Sunday could be far more consequential for Philly. 


Key Stats

Damian Lillard, POR: 51 points, seven assists

Josh Richardson, PHI: 34 points, 6-of-10 from three

CJ McCollum, POR: 16 points, seven rebounds

Tobias Harris, PHI: 16 points, seven rebounds

Carmelo Anthony, POR: 20 points, seven rebounds

Al Horford, PHI: 15 points, six rebounds, five assists


Joel Embiid's Ankle Injury Could Be Devastating for Philly

The Sixers' playoff hopes already took a major hit when Ben Simmons underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee, likely ending his season. Now their other superstar, Embiid, is dealing with a left ankle injury

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

Joel Embiid won’t return to game vs. Blazers with left ankle injury, per Sixers.

These are dark days in Philadelphia, namely if the injury is serious. 

The bottom line for the Sixers is this—if Embiid gets shut down, the season is over. The Sixers aren't beating a prospective postseason opponent like the Boston Celtics in a playoff series without their top two stars. Frankly, even with Embiid and no Simmons, winning a playoff series may be a long shot. 

Jon Johnson @jonjohnsonwip

Embiid won’t return. I have no feelings left.

Eliot Shorr-Parks @EliotShorrParks

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons being out really highlighting how horrendous the Tobias Harris and Al Hoford contracts are

For the Sixers and their fans, Sunday's result didn't really matter much, even if Josh Richardson and the rest of the Sixers made things close. All that matters now is the status of Embiid's left ankle. 


Damian Lillard Did His Talking on the Court Sunday

On Saturday, the normally clutch Lillard came up short against the Los Angeles Clippers, leading to a war of words after the game. 

Ben Golliver @BenGolliver

Blazers’ Damian Lillard on Clippers’ celebrating & waving him off court after clutch FT misses: “Patrick Beverley, I sent him home before. Paul George just got sent home by me last year... I’m not offended by it. It should tell you how much it hurt them.” https://t.co/mPFjnACHMi

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

The scene on Instagram 🍿 👀 https://t.co/wk4JuD5af7

But Lillard was cooking Sunday. The next team he faced was always going to be in trouble, and that just so happened to be the Embiid-less Sixers. A day after struggling in the final moments against the Clippers, Lillard willed the Blazers to a win. 


⌚️ IT'S DAME TIME! ⌚️ https://t.co/oWAncOD3Ve


32 PTS and counting late in the 3rd... Damian Lillard is locked in on @NBATV! 👀🔒 https://t.co/bp5KsH686W


Damian Lillard gets out to 22 PTS, 5 AST in the opening half vs. Philly! 🔥 #WholeNewGame #RipCity https://t.co/vwwDoMMaj1

Ben Golliver @BenGolliver

Blazers' Damian Lillard w/ 51 points in 124-121 win over Sixers. - Second player to score 50 in the bubble (Pacers' T.J. Warren, 53) - 9 points in the final 3 minutes to close out the win - Eliminates Pelicans from the playoffs https://t.co/xdTUjWhEzF

If this team is going to make the postseason and steal a series, it will be because Lillard plays on a whole different level. He's done so before. After Saturday's poor performance in the clutch—and the Clippers' reaction to it—it might just be Dame Time in the bubble.  


What's Next? 

The Sixers face the Suns on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. ET, while the Blazers take on the Dallas Mavericks that same day at 6:30 p.m. ET.