Philadelphia 76ers (4-23) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (23-7)
Friday, December 26
Moda Center; Portland, OR | 7:00 p.m. PST | Local TV/Radio: KGWHD; 620 AM
Out for the Blazers: | Out for the 76ers: Joel Embiid, Jason Richardson, Furkan Aldemir (day-to-day), Hollis Thompson (day-to-day), Tony Wroten (day-to-day)
SBN Affiliate: Liberty Ballers | Timmay's Viewing Guide | Blazer's Edge Night
The Blazers return from the holiday break and a successful four-game road trip tonight to host the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sixers come into tonight's game on a two-game winning streak, defeating the Magic and the Heat on the road in the past week. Philly's improved defense has been the key to its recent success, though it's struggled on the other side of the ball a bit. The 76ers' offense is No. 25 in the NBA in points per game the last five (96), No. 28 in assists per game (19), No. 30 in turnovers per game (19.4), No. 27 in field goal percentage (42.7 percent) and No. 26 in three-point percentage (30.6 percent).
Philly point guard Michael Carter-Williams has gotten up 15.4 shots a game the last five, making 44.2 percent of them in that time. He has a decent floater and is an excellent finisher in the lane, but his jumper hasn't been particularly reliable lately. Carter-Williams attempts almost four threes a night, but has made only 27.8 percent of them the last couple weeks. He's a great passer but creates more of his own offense than any of his teammates.
Forward Robert Covington takes more than a dozen shots a game but isn't accurate from anywhere except from deep, where he's taken 7.4 threes per context the last five and made 35.1 percent of them. Veteran forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a great scorer at the rim but unreliable elsewhere.
Guards Tony Wroten and Hollis Thompson are probably Philly coach Brett Brown's most efficient scorers lately, but both are questionable tonight after sitting out the win over the Heat on Tuesday. Wroten is an average finisher at the rim but has hit over 41 percent of his threes the last five games. In that time, Thompson has hit half his shots, most effective at the basket.
Center Nerlens Noel went 0-for-5 on Tuesday, but he's hit 57.9 percent of his shots at the rim lately, which accounts for almost half his attempts. Rookie forward K.J. McDaniels similarly can score in the paint but isn't efficient from anywhere else.
Brown's gone with a semi-short rotation recently, due largely to injuries. Reserve frontcourt players Henry Sims and JaKarr Sampson have been solid in limited attempts the last five games. Forward Jerami Grant hasn't been able to hit much recently off the bench. Big man Furkan Aldemir may be available for action tonight but has largely been a non-factor offensively lately when he's played.
Philly's defense has exceeded expectations lately, giving up plenty of points and assists but limiting opponents' field goal and three-point shooting percentages while forcing more turnovers than any other team in the league the last five games. The Sixers are horrible at defending in transition and allow fairly easy ball movement.
Portland's offense carried the team to a 3-1 road trip the last week, even though the Blazers didn't shoot well within the arc and relied heavily on threes.
Point guard Damian Lillard has put the Blazers on his back recently, leading the charge in overtime, come-from-behind wins over the Spurs and Thunder in the last week. Over the last five games, Lillard has hit over half his shots, dominating from the midrange while draining 48.7 percent of his threes. Expect him to see plenty of open looks tonight, as opponents have thrown up almost 25 threes a game against the Sixers over their last five.
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge struggled to hit his shots against OKC Tuesday, going 9-for-28 and ending with just 25 points. He's been dynamite from the midrange lately, though, and has hit 70 percent of his attempts at the rim the last five games.
Guard Wesley Matthews regained his shooting stroke against the Thunder, and he now sits at 41.2 percent from deep the last five games. Wing Allen Crabbe, starting in place of the injured Nicolas Batum, didn't shoot well Tuesday but is not much of a factor offensively whether or not he starts.
Center Chris Kaman continued his recent up-and-down play this week, struggling with his jumper but connecting on most of his shots closer to the hoop. Big man Joel Freeland has picked up a couple starts recently in the absence of center Robin Lopez, but like Crabbe, hasn't been a huge part of the offense even if he's been getting big minutes.
Reserve forwards Thomas Robinson and Dorell Wright have both connected on half their shots the last five games, though Wright has played rather situationally while Robinson has seen steady minutes in the frontcourt. Guards Steve Blake and CJ McCollum have played in each of the last five games, though neither has scored well close to the hoop while shooting at a reliable clip from outside.
Portland's defense has been stingy lately, defending opponents well both on the perimeter and within the arc. The Blazers have forced more turnovers than usual lately and have played the passing lanes solidly, preventing easy ball movement.
The Sixers have been mostly average on the boards recently, though they've given up a ton of offensive rebounds the last several games. Portland, on the other hand, has been dominating the defensive glass but hasn't been bringing in as many offensive rebounds without Lopez' big body taking up space in the middle. Sims and Noel are good individual rebounders for Philly, and a few other players chip in -- Carter-Williams, in particular, is a great on the glass for a guard. Aldridge, Kaman, Robinson and Freeland should be able to hold the fort against the Sixers tonight without too much struggle.
The Blazers are coming off a successful 3-1 road trip and are sitting at No. 2 in the Western Conference right now, but the Sixers are a capable team and they did manage to hang around for three-and-a-half quarters the last time the teams played before Aldridge put them away for good late. Philly picked up a ton of assists and shot well in a November loss to the Blazers, but Portland's advantage on the glass and its superior outside shooting ultimately did in the 76ers. Expect a close game early as Philly rides its recent momentum, but the Blazers should be able to shake off the cobwebs in the second half and have the potential to run away with the victory, kicking off a seven-game homestand.
-- Chris Lucia | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter
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