The Sixers held on to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 105-95 Thursday night. Despite leading by as much as 26, sloppy second half play gave the game a tenser feel than it should have had. Joel Embiid dropped 32 points with nine boards and three blocks, and James Harden had a 16-point triple-double.
Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
- A good start for the Sixers’ offense as Embiid was able to get to his spots early and often. The big fella made four of his first five from the field and sent Jusuf Nurkic to the bench with two fouls.
- Tyrese Maxey showed James Harden isn’t the only one who can work a two-man game with Embiid. Maxey got a couple of jumpers to fall with the pick-and-roll, then showed his versatility with a floater dashing away from Embiid.
- It certainly helped that the Trail Blazers got off to a horrendous start. They shot just 27 percent from the field, only scoring 14 points in the first. They nearly matched their turnovers (5) with made field goals (6) as Philly coasted to a 12-point lead.
- Everything continued to go the Sixers’ way, starting with the bench unit. Just about everybody on the floor was able to throw a lob to Montrezl Harrell.
Maxey’s play stood out through this stretch. He went into the half with 13 points on 6-9 shooting.
- The Blazers are rudderless at the moment, and it showed with their lowest scoring half of the season. As a team, they turned the ball over 11 times. Damian Lillard had four of those himself, and was held to just 4 points on 1-10 shooting. The Sixers took a 23-point lead into the break.
- Even when the Harden/Embiid pick-and-roll doesn’t work, it works.
- The second half begun just as the first did, with James Harden picking apart the Portland defense. Harden only scored 16 points on the night, but he was surgical as a passer, dishing out 14 assists.
- The Blazers didn’t roll over and die, they went on a 14-0 run towards the end of the quarter to put themselves back within striking distance. It is not a coincidence that this run started around when Embiid picked up his fourth foul, sending him to the bench earlier than normal. A game that looked all but over at halftime was now a 14-point game going into the fourth.
- Embiid picked up his third foul right before halftime, and was whistled for Jerami Grant essentially tripping over him. In a more competitive game, it might have been challenged and overturned. Instead, Doc Rivers let it go and it had effect, as Embiid had to play with five fouls down the stretch.
- The bench unit was able to stop the bleeding as they were left out there to start the final quarter. A couple of threes from Georges Niang were key in making sure Embiid and Harden came back into the game with a 15-point lead.
- For as sharp as Harden looked early, he really struggled as the Blazers continued to trap him. A Sixer lead that was as high as 26 was whittled down to as little as eight down the stretch. It wasn’t exactly pretty basketball that put the game away, as they were able to take advantage of a couple Blazer misses into transition points. You will certainly take that for the fourth game of a five game road trip.
- The Sixers will wrap up this west coast trip when they travel to Sacramento on Saturday (Go Birds) to take on the Kings at 10 p.m. EST.