Portland Trail Blazers (10-3) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (0-13)
Monday, November 24
Wells Fargo Arena; Philadelphia, PA | 4:00 p.m. PST | Local TV/Radio: CSNNWHD; 620 AM
Out for the Blazers: C.J. McCollum | Out for the 76ers: Jason Richardson, Travis Outlaw, Jerami Grant, Joel Embiid
SBN Affiliate: Liberty Ballers | Timmay's Viewing Guide | BE's 2014-15 76ers Season Preview | Blazer's Edge Night
The Blazers land in Philadelphia today to take on the winless 76ers in the second half of a back-to-back set that started with a win yesterday over the Celtics.
The 0-13 Sixers are historically bad, sporting a scoring margin of -16.5 points. Their 88.8 points per game ranks dead-last in the NBA, and Philly is No. 30 in the league in the following offensive categories: effective field goal percentage, three-point percentage, overall shooting percentage and even free throw shooting percentage. They turn the ball over often and have poor ball movement.
The 76ers are decent at scoring via fastbreaks and get up plenty of threes. That's about the end of the list of things they do well consistently on offense.
Philadelphia's defense is as bad as its offense, allowing 105.2 points per game (No. 26 in the NBA), 16.3 fastbreak points (No. 29) and 24.3 assists (No. 27). They send opponents to the free throw line often and struggle to defend all areas of the court. The Sixers do force plenty of turnovers, but are pretty abysmal defensively, otherwise.
Point guard Michael Carter-Williams -- who missed the first several games of the season due to injury -- gets up the most shots for Philadelphia, but he's been unable to convert well from anywhere on the floor. Carter-Williams gets to the rim for a third of his shot attempts, but has been unable to finish. His midrange jumper is off, and he's shot four three-pointers a game over the last five but has made just 20 percent of them. He has a 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in that span, coughing up the ball 4.2 times per game.
Shooting guard Tony Wroten either drives to the rim or launches threes, eschewing the midrange entirely. In the last five games, he's made 39.4 percent of his shots and 15.8 percent of his threes. Wroten has picked up 5.2 assists a night, though, leading the Sixers in that category.
The rest of Philly's field goal attempts are spread fairly evenly among coach Brett Brown's 11-man rotation. Only centers Drew Gordon and Henry Sims are above 50 percent shooting the last five games, and they combine to average just nine attempts. Starting rookie power forward Nerlens Noel is shooting 45.9 percent, while small forward Luc Mbah a Moute is at 38.6 percent from the field and 20 percent from deep. Guard Hollis Thompson and forward Brandon Davies play big minutes off the bench but have shot 39.4 and 25 percent, respectively, from the field the last five games. Reserve guard Alexey Shved is also struggling with his shot.
Rookie guard K.J. McDaniels and second-year forward Robert Covington -- who spent most of last year in the D-League before getting waived by the Rockets a month ago -- have been the Sixers' best outside shooters the last five games, with McDaniels hitting 38.5 percent of his three-point tries and Covington 55.6 percent of his. No one else on the roster has shot above 33.3 percent from outside in that span, and Philly is shooting 25.6 percent from deep as a team.
The Blazers have matchup advantages at every position tonight and should be able to find ways to score efficiently. Point guard Damian Lillard, who had a difficult time finding good looks last night against Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, might be able to bounce back from his 4-for-14 shooting performance in Boston. He's hit half his field goals the last five games and 58.6 percent of his threes. Lillard's midrange jumper is off right now, but he doesn't go to it particularly often, usually shooting from outside or attacking the basket, where he's had a hard time finishing recently.
Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge went 7-for-21 from the field last night in Boston, but bolstered his scoring output by getting to the free throw line seven times and converting six of those attempts. Like Lillard, Aldridge's jumpshot has been off-target lately. Unlike Lillard, however, he relies on the midrange jumper for half of his points. Tonight's game offers a solid opportunity for Aldridge to get his shot back on track.
Shooting guard Wesley Matthews didn't get a ton of shots up last night against the Celtics, but did manage to hit four of his seven field goals and 2-of-3 three-pointers, a sign that he may be coming out of a recent shooting slump. Forward Nicolas Batum was a bit more aggressive offensively last night in his second game back from injury, shooting 5-of-11 from the floor and 2-of-6 from deep. He played 32 minutes last night in Boston, so he may be healed from the knee contusion that kept him out of four games recently. Batum's two-man game with center Robin Lopez was also on full display last night.
Center Chris Kaman hit six of his 13 shots against the Celtics and went 4-for-4 from the free throw line, registering 16 points. His shooting percentages have dipped a little lately, but he's finished well inside and is the leading scorer off the bench. Lopez has only attempted 7.4 shots a game the last five, but he's converted 67.6 percent of them and can take advantage of smaller centers with his reliable hook-shot.
Guard Steve Blake was the offensive spark Portland needed last night, hitting five of his eight shot attempts and dishing five assists in 21 minutes. He's shot pretty poorly the last five games, so Blake's solid performance in Boston may be a sign that he's rounding back into form. Guard Allen Crabbe is still in coach Terry Stotts' rotation, though he doesn't shoot often. Big man Joel Freeland plays about a dozen minutes a night off the bench, but is not a huge factor offensively. Forward Dorell Wright found himself picking up six minutes in Boston, but hasn't managed to shoot well all season. Wing Will Barton and forward/center Meyers Leonard both picked up DNP-CDs last night, and forward Thomas Robinson is still glued to the bench. Don't be surprised to see Stotts switch up the rotation a bit tonight, as the Blazers are playing on the second night of a back-to-back and are playing the league's worst team by many statistical measures.
The Sixers don't really have any great individual rebounders, but they manage to pull in 50.1 boards per game, good for No. 19 in the league. Unfortunately, they give up 55 rebounds a night to the opposition, and struggle on the offensive glass. Noel is Philly's team-leader in rebounds for the season, hauling in 6.5 per game. The Blazers are one of the better rebounding teams in the NBA, and any struggles against the Sixers on the boards would likely be due to a lack of effort or fatigue from playing the night before.
On paper, Philadelphia doesn't have much of a chance to defeat Portland, even on its homecourt and with the Blazers on the second night of a back-to-back. Still, the game isn't played on paper and Portland can't be caught sleeping, as the Sixers almost took out the 10-3 Rockets a couple weeks ago in a 1-point loss. If the Blazers play anywhere near their average game, though, they should be able to overwhelm Philly and extend their winning streak to eight games tonight.
-- Chris Lucia | email@example.com | Twitter