The Portland Trail Blazers looked overwhelmed early, but put on a clinic in the second half to blow out the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers 130-115 on the road.
Philly looked to be the more energized squad in the early goings - not all that surprising for a 10 a.m. Pacific tip - but Portland hung tight and kept it close during a fast paced back and forth first half that featured about as many errant passes, missed tips and lost balls as fans could remember this season. That energy was all but lost for the Sixers for the latter 24 minutes, as the Blazers looked to slow things down and finally remembered to preach the mantra of “we have 500+ combined pounds of center to throw at you - what are you going to do about it?”
Even without Embiid, this is still a quality win for Portland. It’s been quite a metamorphosis for the Sixers’ roster since the “Trust the Process” days old - since scoring Embiid and fellow All-Star Ben Simmons in the draft, just this season Philly has added the likes of the tenacious Jimmy Butler, and just as of the recent trade deadline, the perennially underrated Tobias Harris, nothing short of a gift from Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers. Those are quality players. From watching just the first quarter, one could have easily thought the Blazers star power to be just too overmatched on the road - and they’d probably be right. But as the game went on, Portland’s depth became the truly overwhelming force. The Blazers didn’t win because the Sixers crumbled, Portland simply outlasted and outgunned them.
Random thoughts and takeaways
Kan you take me higher? In just the second trial of The Great Enes Kanter Experiment, the results could hardly look any better. For the second straight game, Portland dominated its opponent with a relentless 48-minute attack on the paint. Kanter combined with Jusuf Nurkic - who turned in one of his best offensive performances of the season - for 40 points, 18 boards and 7 assists in what amounted to one cumulative eastern European fist to face for Philadelphia. The absence of Embiid is surely noteworthy - at times Kanter was being single-covered in the post by the 6’8” Harris - but “The Nurk and the Turk” immediately appears to be a downright lethal combination to squads who can’t match up with their immense size. Few teams can. The Blazers cleaned the Sixers’ clocks on the boards 53-33, nearly doubling them up for most of the contest and much to the credit of the center duo.
Express yourself. Beyond flashy post moves, a huge impact on the glass and subtly trolling social media presence, the arrival of Kanter has given the Blazers something much more valuable - an identity. Or, at the very least he helped that identity become more realized. Judging by the results of the past two games. Portland won in the same way one would expect them to paper - overwhelming the other side with size, strength and depth. Perhaps more impressive than just the sheer productivity, Nurkic and Kanter combined for 27 shot attempts - the exact same amount as Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. This is Terry Stotts and the Blazers saying “we’re going to come at you like the Kool-Aid Man and drywall until you find a way to stop it.” Whenever that happens (if even), Portland has the ability to fall back on two of the best outside shooting guards currently in the association. That is a bonafide and synergistic basketball identity that could take this team far.
The Blazers will get a day off before the road trip continues in Cleveland against the lowly Cavaliers Monday at 4 p.m.