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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Philadelphia 76'ers: Blazers Rebound for the Win

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Strong board work keeps the Blazers in control even when the Sixers play well as Portland sends Philly to their 14th straight loss.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers got the chance to face the 2020 World Champions today as they squared off against the Philadelphia 76'ers in the second game of a three-part East Coast road swing. The Blazers played around with the Sixers for a half before slamming the door on their hosts in the third period and refusing to let them gain re-entry, culminating in a 114-104 victory for Portland.

Game Flow

First Half

We don't need to split this game into quarters. The halftime intermission provided a bright line delineating the breaking point of the evening.

Before halftime the Blazers rebounded well, shot OK, and played decent halfcourt defense. Normally this would be enough to put away a team like the Sixers. But the Blazers also gave it all back (and more) by turning over the ball and allowing Philly to streak to 18 fast break points in the first 24 minutes of the game.

The Sixers are the league's lowest-scoring team, averaging 89 points per game on 41% shooting. Running the break is their only reliable source of buckets. They average 14 fast break points each night. Allowing them 18 in the first half alone was akin to getting the Gremlins wet. Bad idea.

As a result of this generous malfeasance the Sixers took a 52-50 lead into the break, leaving the Wells Fargo Center crowd ecstatic. Some arenas have a fast food giveaway if the home team reaches 100 points in a game. When the 76'ers lead at the half, every fan in attendance walks away with a brand new car.

Second Half

As it turned out, those fans should have driven away at halftime. The Blazers turned off the spigot of turnovers in the second half. With it went the break opportunities and Philadelphia's capacity to stay even.

To nobody's surprise, the Blazers opened the third period working LaMarcus Aldridge...their go-to scoring option when things aren't trending well. Aldridge responded with 15 points in the quarter, spurring his team to 39 overall. Philly scored 28 in the period themselves but you could see the wind flee their sails the second they got down by 8 or so. They had read this story before. The game was over. They knew it, their crowd knew it, and the Blazers knew it too. Portland played free and easy the rest of the way, protecting the rock and not letting the Sixers close again. Philadelphia managed to top 100 for only the 2nd time this year, but still absorbed a 114-104 loss, their 14th straight to start the season.

Analysis

There's not too much to say on Portland's end other than they sure like to fiddle around with weaker opponents. When a team has exactly one way to trap you into a loss, you'd think avoiding that trap would be a priority. Instead the Blazers stepped right in it, let it close, then hulked their way out behind Aldridge. Good enough, but it still makes you scratch your head.

As we saw tonight, the Sixers are good at forcing turnovers. The Blazers demonstrated that they're susceptible to pressure...a recurring theme throughout the season so far. Most teams can't keep it up long enough to bother Portland much, but when they do come up against quick defense at the point of attack and/or in the passing lanes, the Blazers don't look great.

On the other hand Portland's rebounding was SO dominant that you never felt like the Sixers could defend them. Even if the Blazers missed you figured they were going to get the ball right back.

This game also provided a wonderful contrast in chemistry. The Blazers weren't perfect, but they were confident and played together. The Sixers have plenty of interesting pieces. Nerlens Noel, K.J. McDaniels, Henry Sims, Tony Wroten, and Michael Carter-Williams all got chances to shine tonight. But the chemistry between Carter-Williams and his teammates was like toothpaste on an artichoke. That disconnect alone was enough to sabotage Philly's momentum...and this despite 28 assists on 42 made buckets for them. Portland's teamwork made it feel like they were never out of it. Philadelphia's made it feel like they were never in it. It'll be interesting to see if that changes as they gain experience and pack that roster even more. If they ever learn how to use the talent they're accumulating, the Sixers could be scary.

Fun With Numbers

--70 points in the paint allowed is not fun for Portland. 0 three-pointers allowed is more so.

--18 fast break points allowed in the first half is not fun either. Containing the Sixers to only 22 for the game redeems it.

--Similarly, the Blazers ended up turning over the ball only 15 times in the game, giving up 11 steals after handing over 9 in the first two quarters.

--Portland shot only 26% from the arc on 27 attempts but managed 49% shooting from the field.

--18 offensive rebounds to 7 given up. Woot!

Individual Notes

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 33 on 13-20 shooting. Even more impressive: he was captain of the rebounding squad, netting 11 for the game including 6 offensive rebounds. He was everything for the Blazers in this game.

Damian Lillard had a measured outing, scoring 16 on 6-11 shooting with 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 turnovers. He stayed with Carter-Williams better than he stayed with Rajon Rondo last night.

Robin Lopez smacked away 4 blocked shots, in part because his teammates were letting drivers feed down the lane into his arms. He was really active down low on the defensive end tonight. Great outing.

Wesley Matthews ended up in the middling category again tonight, scoring 17 but shooting 6-16, 2-8 from distance, in the process. His opponents looked faster than his defense could keep up with.

Nicolas Batum bedeviled the Sixers with 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists.  He didn't face a high-stress defensive matchup nor did the Blazers need him to score.

Joel Freeland turned in an amazing second-quarter shift, scoring 9 points in 14 total minutes mostly by finding the seams in Philly's defense. The guy sees the floor well. He added 4 rebounds and 4 fouls. He's getting called for everything he does inside these days.

Chris Kaman had a frustrating night, getting into it with officials and getting denied by Philly bigs. He still managed 8 points and 9 rebounds in 19 minutes.

Steve Blake played 23 minutes, missed all 5 of his three-pointers, all 6 of his shot attempts, but still managed to look great because of 8 assists and confidence.

Allen Crabbe also looked confident, hitting 2 of his 4 triples on the way to 8 points in 15 minutes.

Will Barton had a really nice dunk on the break, scoring 5 points with a steal and a block in 6 minutes.

The Blazers will take a travel night before facing the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday.

Boxscore

Check our Instant Recap for post-game reaction.

Liberty Ballers might deem this loss as slightly less painful than most of the other 13.

--Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @DaveDeckard@Blazersedge