The Philadelphia 76ers upset the Portland Trail Blazers 101-99 in the Moda Center for their fourth straight road win. I’m disappointed, but I can’t honestly say that I’m upset. The Sixers played a strong basketball game, while the Trail Blazers struggled to keep up. It came right down to the wire, but Portland did not deserve to win after coughing up 18 turnovers and missing 19 of their 22 3-point attempts.
Thaddeus Young led the Sixers with 30 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals. He has averaged 26.4 points in his last seven games. Though Portland was unable to contain him, they were almost able to match him with LaMarcus Aldridge, who led the Trail Blazers with 29 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, and a season high 5 blocks. Aldridge was the only Trail Blazers to crest 20 points.
LaMarcus Aldridge kept Portland afloat for much of the game. We have come to expect this level of offensive output, but his heightened defensive presence on the interior was a pleasant surprise tonight. He tallied his 20th double-double in 34 games this season.
Damian Lillard was a mess for most of the night. He barely marked 6-20 shooting after some important late game drives shored up the numbers. He also totaled six costly turnovers. His heroics in the fourth made the game close, but were necessitated by his overall struggles. He finished with 17 points, 2 rebounds, an 1 assist.
Nicolas Batum had an awful shooting night, going 1-9 for 4 points. However; he completed a 10-rebound/10-assist double-double before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. He was a shade more helpful than detrimental, though the Trail Blazers needed him to score when he began shooting more in the second half.
Wesley Matthews trickled in a quiet 13 points to go with 4 assists and 3 rebounds. Not terrible, but not great either. He missed all five of the 3-pointers he attempted and was noticeably upset with himself for missing an important free throw that would have tied the game with 23 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Robin Lopez played masterfully. He scored 14 points on 4-8 shooting and hauled in 15 rebounds, including a season high 9 offensive boards. Despite the loss, this was possibly Lopez’s best performance of the year, and it was satisfying to see him outplay opposing center Spencer Hawes since that was a difficult matchup for him.
Mo Williams put on a clinic in the first half. Portland trailed by as many as 16, but Williams scored 14 points in 13 minutes off the bench to keep the Trail Blazers in it. He cooled off later on, but not enough to cancel out his early contributions. He finished with 16 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 3 turnovers.
Meyers Leonard played solid defense. You read that right. He stopped a drive from former Trail Blazer Elliot Williams in transition, knew where to be most of the time, and only committed one unnecessary foul. He even snagged some momentous rebounds when the game was close down the stretch. He had 2 points and 6 rebounds.
Dorell Wright & Joel Freeland were invisible. Neither played poorly, but they were little more than warm bodies for their combined 26 minutes of play.
The Trail Blazers set themselves up for failure right out of the gate. Terry Stotts was forced to call a timeout four minutes into the game when the 76ers led 16-2. The offense was run through LaMarcus Aldridge for the rest of the quarter, though they were only able to shrink the deficit by one point. Aldridge had 11 first quarter points, but Philadelphia kept a 32-19 lead at the end of one.
Mo Williams came alive in the second, providing the bench spark the Trail Blazers signed him for, but Portland still trailed by two at the half. They outscored the Sixers 26 to 17 in the third and it was beginning to look like the Trail Blazers would keep rolling toward what would have been their 27th victory of the season. Then they entered the fourth quarter.
There was the usual back-and-forth until Philadelphia went on a 13-0 run to take the lead by six. Portland brought it back to an even 90-90 before things went a little crazy. Nicolas Batum was called for a dead ball foul that put Michael Carter-Williams at the line. The officials were met with roaring boos from the home crowd when the replay showed that Carter-Williams had actually shoved Batum. MCW sank both free throws.
Shortly thereafter, the officials overturned an out-of-bounds call that was initially in Portland’s favor. Replay didn’t seem to show enough for them to change the call, but Philadelphia retained possession with a two point lead. In all honesty, it was probably off of Robin Lopez, though that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
These things happen. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. Sometimes it’s favorable, sometimes it’s not. What’s important is that the Trail Blazers would not have been in a position for these calls to matter if they weren’t playing so poorly to begin with. The officiating crew called a pretty even game. Moments prior, Wesley Matthews was given an opportunity to tie the game with a pair of free throws, but split 1 and 1 with 23 seconds remaining.
At the 9 second mark, Damian Lillard streaked down the court for a layup that brought the Blazers within two. When hope dwindled and a foul seemed imminent, Robin Lopez stole the in-bound pass and Terry Stotts called a timeout! The Trail Blazers had 5.4 seconds to make a miracle happened (spoiler alert: re-read the title).
Damian Lillard received the ball and drove to the hoop. Having gone 3-22 from the arc as a team, Portland decided to aim for overtime instead of a flat-out victory. However; it was not to be. Damian’s shot fell short and Evan Turner grabbed the defensive rebound. In the scrum, Michael Carter Williams took an elbow to the head from teammate Thaddeus Young and remained on the floor for two minutes before walking to the locker room under his own power.
The Trail Blazers will look to take out their self-imposed frustration on the Sacramento Kings Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. PST. Rookie guard CJ McCollum may be joining them for the first time, so things are looking up after a tough home loss in Portland.