Defense lifts Sixers over struggling Blazers, 88-79

On the surface, this looked like a potential turning point in the young 76ers season.  Down 2 heading into the 4th quarter, the Sixers dominated the final frame to win at home against a potential Western Conference playoff team.

On the surface.

Looking at the Portland Trailblazers, their play of late indicates nothing akin to the team that has won 50 games in back to back seasons.  With Greg Oden out for the year and a gimpy Brandon Roy, the Blazers had lost three in a row heading into the game tonight, including a bad loss two nights earlier to the New Jersey Nets.  Sitting at 8-8 and on the second game of a 4 game road trip, the Blazers were ripe for the picking.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy would score the first 14 points of the game for the Blazers, as they ran out to a 14-9 lead.  Roy would go on to score 4 more points the rest of the game, ending up scoring 10 points on 9 shots, while dishing out 0 assists and committing 2 turnovers in an effort that clearly showed his current physical limitations.  Aldridge would continue to pester the Sixers on the offensive glass, including 6 first-half offensive rebounds.  By the end of the night, he had a typical Aldridge game, taking 20 shots to score 20 points, getting to the line only twice, while continuing to get farther and farther away from the basket as the night wore on, despite having a decided edge in the paint against the Sixers interior defenders.  He added in only 5 defensive rebounds in 41 minutes for good measure, displaying both the intrigue and the frustration with the talented forward.

In the end, it was Wesley Matthews, starting for the first time over Nicolas Batum on the perimeter (Matthews had started three prior games for injured Brandon Roy) who proved to be the biggest pest for the Sixers.  The hot shooting guard out of Marquette scored 26 points on 16 field goal attempts to help the Blazers keep pace with the Sixers once the Trailblazers stars had cooled off.

For the second straight game, the Sixers were able to put together a great fourth quarter.  Regardless of how well their opponent is playing, that's a great sign to see going forward.

Thoughts:

  • The offensive glass kept the Blazers in the game.  The Sixers got sorely outrebounded in this one, grabbing only 69.4% of the available defensive rebounds, while grabbing only 16.7% of the available offensive rebounds themselves.  Poor rebounding nearly wasted an otherwise good defensive effort.
  • The Sixers have outscored the opposition 58-31 in the 4th quarter in the last 2 games.
  • Jrue has to do a better job of staying in the game.  This is the third time this year he's fouled out of a game.  Sure, some of that has to do with the lack of good help defenders behind him, but many of the fouls are preventable, including tonight.
  • The third quarter collapses continue, with the Blazers outscoring the Sixers 14-5 to start the third.  The Sixers regrouped, outscoring the Blazers by 17 to end the game.
  • Thaddeus Young had one of his better games on the defensive glass, scooping up 6 defensive rebounds in 21 minutes and change, including several in traffic.  Which was good, since almost on cue, he couldn't keep up his hot scoring.
  • Brandon Roy looks really, really hobbled, and he was no match for Iguodala's defens.e  Roy made 2 three pointers in the first quarter to keep his boxscore somewhat respectable, but he shot 1-7 on shots inside the three point line, struggling to get good looks.
  • I thought the bench, overall, was solid.  No game-changing performances, but solid contributions from Marreese Speights (8 points and 5 boards, including 4 defensive, in 14 minutes), Thaddeus Young (7 rebounds, 2 assists in 21 minutes), Louis Williams (5 assists to 1 turnover), Andres Nocioni (11 points, including 3-3 from three point range, in 16 minutes), and Tony Battie (4 points and 3 rebounds in 10 minutes).
  • Andre Iguodala took a back seat offensively, attempting only 4 field goal attempts.  Even so, Evan Turner attempted only 4 shots, scoring one point, in nearly 20 minutes of action.  Turner's averaging only 1.8 points per game in the last 4 games, on 14.3% from the field in 20 minutes per game.  
  • The Andre Miller/Jrue Holiday matchup turned out to be less than expected.  Jrue Holiday had a hard time staying on the court, playing only 23 minutes before fouling out.  Andre Miller played an Andre Miller game, not putting up huge scoring numbers (only 8 points on 9 shots), but did dish out 9 assists and 4 steals to only 2 turnovers.
  • Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes combined for 28 points, but only 4 defensive rebounds between the 2, as LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby had their way on the offensive glass.
Next up: @Atlanta on Friday
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