Welcome back to Earth.
After the nice diversion that was the road trip and Christmas Day winning streak, the 76ers gave the Blazers a giant dose of “Hey, remember that time both your centers were injured? Kthnxbye!” Philadelphia shot 57.7 percent, scored 60 points in the paint and got 58 points from the combination of Elton Brand, Sammy Dalembert and Marreese Speights on 25-of-33 shooting. That’s 75 percent shooting from Philly’s centers and power forwards. That’s why Portland lost.
It doesn’t get much more cut and dry than it did tonight. Portland’s transition defense was terrible with Philly’s 16 fast-break points hardly telling the story of just how free the 76ers were to throw lobs at the rim willy nilly. At one point late in the fourth quarter, the 76ers actually screwed up one of those lobs because they had two guys with free paths to the bucket collide in mid air. Not a Blazer in sight.
Portland’s offense wasn’t any different than it was in the previous wins, they just converted on fewer mid-range jumpers. This team is going to shoot around 30 long two’s every game, and tonight they shot 6-for-27 on shots between 16 and 23 feet with an effective field-goal percentage of 22.3. And then Philly shot 10-for-20 at the same range, coupled with their inside scoring, and it’s pretty clear what went wrong.
Philly fans probably aren’t too surprised at this, either. They beat the Celtics in Boston in the exact same manner, out-everythinging them inside while shooting efficiently. When Brand and Speights are doing damage off the bench, the 76ers have the talent to beat anybody. You don’t blame Juwan Howard and Jeff Pendergraph to being the ones called upon to stop a deadly front line, you tip your hat to Eddie Jordan and his team for capitalizing on the weaknesses of their opponent. It’s going to happen fairly often, so get used to it.
Individual Thoughts plus some:
Brandon Roy was scorching every bit of land he walked across in the first half, but fell off with the rest of the team as the ball stopped moving. When Portland was trying to mount a late comeback, I was thinking to myself that I couldn’t remember Roy looking so tired all season. His shots weren’t just off, they were unscrewed and left with a map of the hoop written in Cantonese.
On paper, Aldridge had a nice 17 point, 12 rebound performance, but his interior defense left a lot to be desired, especially considering how overmatched the rest of the bigs were. 12 rebounds looked great, but sitting close to the court as I was, my count of his missed defensive box-outs reached the middle finger of my second hand. It’s never going to be a good night when LaMarcus can’t at least match the production of the opposing forwards, much less opposing forwards that play 14 fewer minutes.
Six of Andre Miller’s seven assists came in the first half. That tells you what happened to the offense right there. Miller did a great job setting the early tone with some nifty dimes, but the team never followed suit.
It would be dumb and ignorant for me to say the magic wore off for Howard. The 76ers just went at him harder than anyone else and decided to make him run up and down the floor. A valiant effort, but a gazelle Howard is not. Nevertheless, sacrificing valuable assets to plug a hole at center is not a wise idea.
Both Martell Webster and Steve Blake looked fine when the ball was moving early on, and both suffered when Nate McMillan tried out some small lineups. The thing about small lineups is, they don’t work unless you are going to use the speed to your advantage.
This was Bayless’ worst game since the promotion. His early drive attempts were thwarted by Philly’s shot blockers and he couldn’t get his long pullup game going. Still, it was good to see him not forcing things and continuing to work the passing lanes. This was the perfect game for him to play the hero, though.
Jeff Pendergraph had a great first quarter and had his swag meter reaching nuclear levels after a dunk or two and a couple nice rebounds. Good to see, but he may as well have been transparent in the second half. Jeff still looks like he’s moving too much like a robot in the offense, but that’s not unusual for rookies.
Dante Cunningham shot 2-for-6 and is failing to live up to expectations of providing energy off the bench. Of late, he’s just looked a little lethargic.
Samuel Dalembert apparently attends the LeBron James School of Sideline Sportsmanship. I have no problems with guys celebrating, none at all, but Dalembert, on at least three occasions stood up on the bench and started dancing a jig while his teammates sat and watched play on the other side of the floor.
I’m not sure but I’m pretty sure I would be pulling my own hair out if I was a Blazers media member and I had an AT&T iPhone. No internet during the game, and didn’t get eight texts and two phone calls to show up until I left the arena.
This game isn’t anything to shake your head at, really. It was sobering, sure, but we knew Portland had these giant holes in their roster and playing style before, and now those weaknesses are catching up to them. It’s just the reality of the situation and the season, and the sooner everyone comes to terms with that, the better.