Here's the latest Portland Trail Blazers news (Jan. 30) after a blowout win over the Philadelphia 76ers, including a Deandre Ayton mini-resurgence and Damian Lillard's homecoming tomorrow night.
Trail Blazers blow out Sixers (no, really)
Portland was healthy. Philadelphia was not. But it still counts.
The Blazers had everybody but Shaedon Sharpe and the 76ers didn't have starters Tyrese Maxey, De'Anthony Melton or potential 2023-24 MVP Joel Embiid, but Portland's 130-104 win was its largest of the season. Before last night, it was a 17-point win against the Sacramento Kings the day after Christmas.
Philly led by eight after the first quarter, but the Blazers roared back to take a halftime lead and then used a 16-1 third-quarter run to seal the deal.
The most promising stat from last night's win? Portland, which is last in the NBA in assists, had 29 dimes on 46 made field goals. It shouldn't come as a shock, then, that the Blazers (29th in the league in scoring at 108.3 points per game) shot 55 percent from the field and 43 percent from three and scored 130 points.
Is that ... Deandre Ayton?
It's fair to say that Deandre Ayton's first season with the Trail Blazers had been underwhelming. It's not totally unfair to say it's pretty much just been bad. But the 7-footer's last few games have given glimpses of what Portland thought it was getting when Ayton arrived from the Phoenix Suns in the Lillard trade.
Ayton has only played 31 of 47 games this year as he's dealt with knee tendinitis. His 13.4 ppg average is the lowest of his career, his shooting percentage is his lowest since 2019-20 and he's getting to the free-throw line less than twice a game - not a great number for a center.
In the Blazers' last four games, though, the 25-year-old has averages of 19.5 points and 11.8 rebounds on 64 percent shooting with a plus-minus of +8.8.
Ayton has fooled fans before (ask the Phoenix ones), but if he can be productive, it will change Portland's ceiling. It also makes the fact that he was the on-court centerpiece of the Lillard trade a little more palatable. Speaking of...
Damian Lillard is coming back to Portland tomorrow night
The prodigal son is returning.
Blazers fans, and surely Lillard, have had Jan. 31 circled on their calendar since the NBA released this year's schedule.
There's no reason to think Dame will receive anything other than the warmest of warm receptions inside Moda Center. The game itself might not be so appealing to Blazers fans as even an in-flux Milwaukee Bucks team will be heavily favored, but maybe it won't be about the result tomorrow night.
It will be different seeing Lillard in another jersey, but it will be comforting to see him back on the court in Portland.