The Philadelphia 76’ers came into the Moda Center looking for a revenge win against the Portland Trail Blazers tonight. The contest showcased the best from 3 of the 4 biggest superstars on the floor: Joel Embiid, Damian Lillard, and...Carmelo Anthony? Yup. Aside from a few moments by Portland’s bench and Ben Simmons, entrance to this game was Hall-of-Famers Only. Embiid scored 35, Lillard 30, and Anthony 24 (including a game-saving fourth-quarter spurt), as Portland denied Philadelphia their wish, winning 118-114.
The Blazers came out firing threes, to the surprise of nobody. Lillard and Gary Trent, Jr. connected within the first two minutes. Trent would pour in two more and Lillard another over the next 90 seconds. With shooting like that, you’d think Portland would be streaking out to a huge lead, but they couldn’t defend Philadelphia inside. 7 threes made in the first 6 minutes of play left them up 25-19...an edge, but hardly decisive. 3 minutes later, it was gone. Portland’s shooting, and results, remained spotty for the rest of the period. Portland led 37-36 after one. Lillard had 19 already.
Portland’s bench committee actually extended the lead during their second-quarter shift. Carmelo Anthony started it off, followed by Anfernee Simons and Rodney Hood. Philadelphia’s interior defense was disappointingly soft and the Blazers’ reserves took full advantage, building an 8-point lead. But once again the defense couldn’t sustain what the offense built. Joel Embiid and company destroyed them inside with dunks, rebounds, and free throws. The Philly center scored 15 in the period, including 4 in the final 2.3 seconds as Portland botched an end-of-half inbounds. Philadelphia led 63-60 at the half.
The third period belong to the stars on either end. Embiid either scored or drew so much attention that somebody else on his team could. Lillard didn’t hit as many, but he brought Philly’s defense out of the lane so Enes Kanter and company could rebound. The approaches worked equally as well, a de facto advantage for Portland, as Embiid was dominant to the point of being frightening. The Blazers kept Lillard in for the bench shift but their late-quarter offense wasn’t as productive as the defense was bad. Philadelphia led 93-89 after the third.
Carmelo Anthony started out the fourth quarter aflame, hitting 3 three-pointers and a long two, brining teammates off the bench with leaps of joy. That staked Portland to a 5-point lead. Then ‘Melo kept scoring...and scoring...and scoring. His juices were flowing on the defensive end as well. Portland still led heading into crunch time. But Philly knew where they wanted to score: at the rim. Between Embiid and Ben Simmons, they had the size to do it. Damian Lillard remained scoreless through most of the quarter, and Anthony cooled down. This let Philly sneak back in it with their rim attack. The game was tied with 2:30 remaining. Trent, Jr, hit a three, then Kanter drew an offensive foul on Embiid, opening the door a crack. Lillard hitting a jumper in the lane widened it. Portland led by 5 heading into the final 90 seconds. Embiid cut it to 3 with a minute left, then Seth Curry hit a three. 22.1 seconds remaining and the game was tied. The Blazers had the ball with 5 seconds remaining. Anthony got the rock and drew a blocking foul for free throws, which he hit, capping off a 17-point period. Philly had the last shot with 3.1 remaining. They never got the chance. Robert Covington poked away the ball and Lillard hit the icing free throws to secure the victory.
The Blazers welcome the Cleveland Cavaliers to Moda tomorrow night at 8:00.