If Philadelphia beat the Blazers in Portland, and Philadelphia isn’t a very good team, does that mean Portland isn’t a very good team? Not so much. The 76ers just match up with the post-injuries Blazers as well as any team in the league, for the same reasons Philly matches up well with older, veteran teams like the Boston Celtics. They are big and long, they rebound and they have a number of athletes that run the floor or keep you checking your rearview mirrors to see if you’re about to be tip-dunked on.
The 76ers, in the past couple weeks, have managed to lose to such teams as the Knicks, the Timberwolves, the Wizards and the Raptors. They also boast offensive (106.7) and defensive (110.0) ratings in the second half the the NBA, sport a sub-.500 effective field goal percentage and only get to the free-throw line on an average of 22 times per 100 field-goal attempts. And yet despite all that, I still think this could be a loss for the Blazers, especially if they play within two adjectives of their listless, confused performance in three of the four quarters against Washington on Monday (minus the third).
That’s because Philly is the fifth in offensive rebounding percentage, and they still managed to beat Portland in Portland on Dec. 28 even with the Blazers grabbing seven more offensive boards than them. Elton Bran, Samuel Dalembert and Mareese Speights are the horses inside, with a dash of Thaddeus Young when they go small, and it should surprise nobody that all three of those bigs scored at least 14 points in Portland, with Brand going off for 25. No surprise again, that Jeff Pendergraph said this:
@pdxtrailblazers: From @TheRealJP31 “I’m kind of excited for tonight because Elton Brand kicked my butt last time pretty bad.”
He sure did. To be fair, that was only Pendergraph’s fourth game in the NBA and third playing more than four minutes, but the burden still lies with him and Dante Cunningham to keep Juwan Howard from getting dunked on 17 times with quick help rotations once Andre Iguodala, for instance, gets in the lane. As with any game, Portland is going to have a tough time winning if the mid-range jumpers aren’t falling at a decent clip, but Philly’s offensive rebound tally should correlate closely to the scoring margin.
Keys to the Game:
Box out: We’ve covered this ground, but again, if the Blazers aren’t actively finding their men and putting a body on them, they will end up on some less than flattering posters.
Find a third scorer: Shouldn’t be as difficult as long as Roy plays, but the Blazers struggled the other afternoon to find a third player to create shots for themselves. Martell Webster had one of his worst recent games against Philadelphia in December, so anything from him is a boost, but one of Miller or Bayless needs to accompany Aldridge and Roy with a handful of self-sufficient offensive possessions.
Pick up your man in transition: Philly is the second-best fast-break team in the league behind Golden State and they will run their young legs down your throat if the Blazers are going to allow their men to run unhindered down the wing slots all night as they did for Washington.
Stay out of overtime: This is a selfish reason, but if nobody can get hurt and everyone can be relatively rested by the time they come to Boston on Friday, that would be grreaaaaaaaat (sips from coffee mug).