A short-handed Portland Trail Blazers team went into Philly and blew out the #1 team in the east. Here are 3 key takeaways from a brilliant win.
In a game where Portland only had 9 healthy bodies to take on the Eastern conference front runners, the role players played a near-perfect team game to get the job done.
With Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Derrick Jones Jr, Jusuf Nurkic (all starters), Nassir Little, and Zach Collins all out injured, no one gave Portland a chance in this matchup. But it was a brilliant all-round performance from the bench unit to come up with a massive win. Here are the key takeaways
With no natural point guard in the starting line-up, the Blazers had to create points in other ways, and dominating the offensive glass was the key to success. Portland had a massive 19 offensive boards led by Enes Kanter with 7, who is undoubtedly the best at this craft in the NBA.
These offensive rebounds led to second-chance lay-ups, free throws, and some open 3’s. Despite Joel Embiid having a massive individual game, Kanter and Harry Giles had 12 offensive rebounds between them, a big reason the Blazers pulled away with the win.
When you’re making 3’s, and the opposition isn’t, it usually goes a long way to winning. The Blazers made 13/31 from beyond the arc while the Sixers couldn’t buy a basket, shooting an underwhelming 7/27, made to look better by 3 makes late in the fourth quarter.
This terrible shooting was partly contributed to an off night and partially good defense by the Blazers. While double-teaming Embiid on post-ups, the Blazers did an excellent job rotating and closing out on the Philly shooters making it difficult to get out of the shooting slump. While the defense gets crucified on bad nights, it deserves a lot of credit tonight.
With Dame out, the defense didn’t have anyone to truly lock in on. This was an advantage for the Blazers, who got great offensive contributions all around, with 6 of 9 players scoring in double figures. Gary Trent Jr keeps proving he is the future of the Blazers with a team-high 24 points.
Rookie C.J Elleby even came in and provided a spark, scoring 15 points and getting 7 rebounds, providing great energy on the boards, and even a few highlight plays. Neither Elleby nor the Blazers expected him to get such meaningful minutes this early, but he stood up to the task in a big way.
This is two games in a row where the offensive balance has been key and is a great sign for things to come once the big names come back into the lineup. In my last review of the win against Washington, I did suggest an upset could be coming, but I didn’t expect a performance so dominant.
The Blazers, who are currently 3-2 on the road trip, have a chance to end 4-2 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. This would be an outstanding result, all things considered, and would exceed expectations on the preview for the trip.