After scoring 34 points in the first half, the Portland Trail Blazers (21-24) couldn't quite get back into the game against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers (29-16) on Thursday night in the Moda Center.
To say the Blazers started out cold on offense would be understatement. Most of the first half was a race between whether they would have more made field goals or turnovers.
Defensively, Portland was solid as only Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey had any real success and James Harden was mostly a non-factor. But the Blazers only scored 14 points in the first quarter and fell behind quickly.
The second quarter wasn’t much better with 20 points scored by Portland. Josh Hart hit the team’s lone 3-pointer of the half while Jerami Grant was the only Blazer to reach double digits scoring with 10.
Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons simply had nothing going. Each of them turned the ball over four times and combined for 10 points. From passes out of bounds to travels on plays were they couldn’t make a decision, it was a terrible first half.
Portland finished with 13 made FGs compared to 11 turnovers in the first 24 minutes of action and into the break down 57-34.
The Blazers got out of the funk a bit in the third quarter behind 10 points from Lillard and nine more from Grant.
More importantly, Nassir Little helped the Blazers get out of the funk with a 3-pointer made in rhythm and a drive to the bucket that broke the bad movement. For the first 30 minutes the Blazers gave up too many good looks and often passed into turnovers.
Little ended up with seven points in the frame as Portland cut the deficit to 79-65.
However, any run Portland made could never quite get over the hump despite the turnovers getting cut down in the second half. Philly did just enough each time to thwart the potential run.
Harden finished with a quiet triple-double of 16 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds and helped close out the game with a couple big buckets down the stretch. Embiid finished with 32 points to lead the 76ers.
Still, only giving up 105 is a big win for this Blazers team and certainly meant they gave themselves a chance to win. They won the second half 61-48, but only scoring 34 in the first 24 minutes was just way too much to overcome.
Lillard finished with 25 points to lead the way with Grant behind at 24. Lillard with Simons combined for 11 turnovers however along with 12 for 36 shooting from the floor.
Portland falls to 12th in the Western Conference, one game back of four teams tied for 7-10 in Minnesota, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State and Oklahoma City.
An ugly night on offense doomed a solid night defensively for the home standing Blazers, who play their next five games in the Moda Center. The next comes at 6 p.m. Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
What they said
“Their physicality really bothered us in the first half. We turned it over, the most glaring thing is we turned it over a lot in the first half. They got out and got going. Second half we only turned it over four times and gave ourself a lot more chances. The turnovers are just deflating, they just deflate you. And not only does it deflate you, it energizes their group,” Billups said.
“They were having Embiid in the paint and just trying to protect the 3-point line. We kicked the ball out and it was like we were taking a shot because it was like, ‘Alright, I got an opportunity to shoot,’ when we had opportunities to catch it and just rip and keep attacking and keep paint to to make them have to react and get to the next play. I think they had us sped up, they had us out of whack and a little uncomfortable,” Lillard said.
“We fought so hard with injuries, we had a losing streak, tough road schedule. Now, three games under .500, we got a home stretch and all winnable games. All games we go in to it expecting to win so I think the time is now to lock in and make it happen,” Lillard said.
Aerial display: It was mentioned plenty above, but Portland simply couldn’t hit anything in the first half. The Blazers were 13 for 42 from the field and 1 for 14 from deep and fell behind 20 almost immediately and couldn’t quite battle back after. Portland trailed by as many as 26 points early in the second half and never led in the game.
Bodied: It was a second consecutive game where a dominant center was able to pick apart a smaller Blazers roster. Billups and Lillard both acknowledged the disadvantage after the game and said it makes it a little tougher when you’re outsized like they have been against Embiid and Nikola Jokic. Philly outscored Portland 56-34 in the paint on a night where Nurkic had some foul trouble.
Night and day: Eleven turnovers helped cause only 34 points scored in the first half. And four turnovers in the second half helped fuel a 61-point performance. Billups said it best about the turnovers being deflating, and the game against Philly might be exhibit A on what a difference taking care of the ball can do.
Game grade: D
The second half was much better, but 34 points in 24 minutes of play just isn’t something that can happen. Philly and Denver really showed that this roster is missing some size, no matter how hard Drew Eubanks plays behind Nurkic. The bigs that have taken over the NBA are too versatile and too strong to not have someone behind Nurkic who can at least slow those guys down. On top of that, the Blazers have to be focused on offense. The turnovers spilled over and were just run killers the entire night. There’s a lot to clean up, and likely some deals to be made. But the rest of this homestand could use some second-half fight like the fans saw on Thursday instead of the first half crumble.