By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)Portland 114, Philadelphia 104 – Box Score
Monday night was a game the Trailblazers were ripe for the taking. On the second night of a road back-to-back, Portland clearly did have bring its A-game to the Wells Fargo Center. The normally sharp-shooting team (38.5% from three on the season), went just 7-27 from behind the arc, many of those misses being the uncontested variety the Sixers are fond of giving up. Heading into halftime, it looked like Philadelphia might be able to seize the opportunity and grab their first victory of the season. Up by two and executing perhaps as well offensively as they have all season (50.0% shooting from the field, just 10 turnovers for the game), it looked like the Sixers might give their fans a reason to order half-price Papa John’s out of celebration rather than sorrow.
Sadly, as has been the case for the Sixers in games they were competitive, one particularly bad stretch doomed them to failure. Last night it was the third quarter, as the Blazers put up 39 points, completely turning around a game the Sixers led by 6 points early in the period. The main culprit was the defensive rebounding, as a Portland front line that features 4 players 6’10” or taller in the rotation pushed around the undersized Sixers bigs. Nerlens Noel and Henry Sims combined for just 9 rebounds in a combined 67 minutes of action. The Blazers outrebounded Philadelphia by a huge 52-29 margin, including corralling a whopping 18 offensive rebounds. When all-star forward LaMarcus Aldridge wasn’t draining his patented mid-range jumper, he was collective his teammates’ misses and finishing around the rim (33 points and 11 rebounds, 6 offensive).
Nevertheless, the Sixers didn’t let Portland turn this contest into a laugher, using a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 7. As mentioned, the team did a good job taking care of the ball, and working it around for good shots or open drives at the rim. Michael Carter-Williams, Henry Sims, and Tony Wroten all finished the night with 20 or more points, despite the fact that there was no help spacing the floor, as the team failed to make even a single three in 8 attempts on the evening. The forays into the paint by MCW and Wroten would be exponentially easier if opposing help defenders had to take a couple additional steps out to the three-point line.
With the loss, the team is just one defeat away from tying the franchise-record of consecutive losses to begin a season at 15. The team and Coach Brett Brown continue to say they feel like things are close to breaking right, and on nights like Monday, it feels like they might be right. Still, it seems like the Sixers need the perfect storm of circumstances to work in their favor, because a roster with this lack of depth and overall youth really can’t afford any lulls at any point in a game. We’ll see if they can play the full 48 minutes Wednesday night against Brooklyn.
Other Game Notes:
- I railed on Noel’s rebounding, and rightfully so, but he actually had another great game in other areas. Offensively, Noel shot 6-7 for 12 points, showcasing the up-and-under to his left that appears to be his go-to-move when he faces up in the paint, and even breaking out a sweeping, left-handed semi-sky hook. I’d like to see the team actually draw some things up for Noel; his offensive opportunities mostly consist of last-ditch alternatives from the guards as the shot clock winds down.
- K.J. McDaniels had his usual sequence to make you remember his potential. In the span of a minute during the first half, he finished an acrobatic reverse lay-up along the baseline, and tracked back for a tremendous block of Steve Blake in transition that had the veteran guard just shaking his head. McDaniels was rewarded with 27 minutes of gametime, which hopefully continues to be the norm.
- Monday night was one of the better performances by Michael Carter-Williams this season, but he still needed 24 field goal attempts to get his 24 points. I know he doesn’t have much help offensively, but the point guard is still forcing things far too often. On one play in the first quarter, he tried to take Damian Lillard off the dribble and heaved up an ugly shot early in the shot clock that literally had me groan aloud in disgust. Even Malik Rose made a comment on the play that he had to let things come to him more.
- One sequence by Tony Wroten perfectly encapsulated the entire ‘Tony Wroten experience’. He tried some sort of spinning, no-look, behind the shoulder pass that was easily picked off and led to a three-point play for Portland the other way. However, two plays later, he then made an amazing play to rise up and block a Wes Matthews lay-up in transition and lead the run-out for the Sixers. No one makes you shake your head in both exasperation and wonder more than Tony Wroten.
- The last couple games, Henry Sims has been tapped to shoot the technical free throws for the Sixers. First, good for him for shooting 81% from the line on the year, but you’d be hard-pressed to find another team that had its center taking those shots. It really speaks to the lack of shooting at the guard position that the Sixers find themselves in this position.