Although the Sixers trailed from start to finish, they put together a commendable 48-minute effort against the Portland Trail Blazers last night. As if the odds weren't stacked against them enough – playing the second of a back-to-back and the final game of a five-game road trip in front of a hostile Portland crowd – the Sixers were also without the services of Andre Iguodala, who sat out the game with knee soreness.
Under the circumstances the Sixers could have very easily laid down and quit at the first sign of trouble – like after Wes Matthews hit five threes in the first quarter – instead, they hung tough throughout, staying within single digits of the Blazers until late in the fourth. The Blazers held a five point lead with 8:20 remaining in the game, when their starting lineup returned. From that point on the Blazers went on a 12-3 run and stretched the lead to 14 to ice the game.
Three off-days now await the Sixers before they return home to play the Hawks on Wednesday. Individual observations after the jump.
- Tony Battie and Andres Nocioni combined for an entirely-too-many 35 minutes. Marreese Speights got the DNP-SMH.
- Although Jrue's final line leaves much to be desired (7 points on 3-11) I thought he played an excellent game. He played a great point guard, controlling the offense and setting up various teammates for extremely easy shots on a night where the the Sixers had to work for everything against some tough Blazers defense. He made two or three very strong moves to the hoop, hit a big-time step-back three with the shot clock winding down, and finished with a 10:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. It should also be mentioned, the Blazers had the 6'8" Nic Batum guarding Jrue for most of the night. It speaks volumes when the opposing team puts their best-defending small forward on a 20 year-old point guard.
- The starters combined for just 42 points; Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams combined for 43. Both players did what they normally do. Lou: pound the rock, iso, make tough shots, get to the free throw line, carry the offense for stretches. Thad: hustle points, high percentage shots. Although; he did take more jumpers last night than he has in a while. He was making them, but still don't like him shooting them.
- In his spot start for the resting Iguodala Evan Turner had an extremely frustrating game. Despite the start he played just 17 minutes. He was saddled with foul trouble the entire night and finished with 6 points on 6 shots and a 1:3 assist-to-turnover ratio. On a night when every move Jrue made was made with aggression and a purpose, Turner seemed entirely too robotic. His six points came on two jumpers and a really nice take on Gerald Wallace for a lay-up, but the fouls never allowed him to get in a rhythm.
- Elton Brand was nonexistent except for a stretch early in the fourth. Without Iguodala, the Sixers needed more than 10 from EB.
- Jodie Meeks continued to be wet, making a wide variety of shots tonight. Meanwhile; I continue to ponder whether he should be a part of this team's future. Over the last 25 games he's averaging 12 points in 29 minutes, with percentages of 45/43/94, and 2.3 threes per game.
- Any chance at the fifth seed has vanished, while the Sixers and Knicks are currently tied for sixth. The Knicks trail the Bucks by one late in the third.