Joel Embiid

Blazers prove the NBA truism -- the aggressive team gets the calls

Blazers prove the NBA truism -- the aggressive team gets the calls

Some real talk about Portland's 114-110 win over the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night:

  • A wacky, crazy, strange game. And for Trail Blazer fans, probably the most exciting game of the season. In the fourth quarter Portland did a great job of mucking the game up -- being physical on defense and very aggressive at both ends of the floor. It resulted in a 42-point quarter while holding the Sixers to 25. I liked the Blazers' passion in the period more than anything. They fed off the home crowd, which was rightfully going bonkers for the first time in weeks
  • And speaking of the home crowd, the referees pitched in and helped as much as they could. Portland shot 47 free throws while Philadelphia got just 14. That's a joke, but once again testimony to the NBA truism that the aggressive team gets the calls.
  • The game may have turned on a flagrant foul call on Joel Embiid in the fourth quarter when he bumped Jusuf Nurkic to the floor. Or Nurkic just flopped onto the floor. I can understand an official watching that in real time and thinking it may have been a flagrant foul -- but after watching a replay? That was a real bad call -- and even though Nurkic missed his free throws, you could feel the game changing on that call. Embiid seemed discouraged and tired down the stretch. Great player, though.
  • Nurkic offered a look at both sides of his game. He suffered through all sorts of stumbles, fumbles and misfires over the first three quarters. The man has missed more close-in shots and layups this season than any player I've ever seen. But in the fourth quarter, after getting his nose bloodied, he found passion and assertiveness. He was an inspiration down the stretch -- leading to the obvious question: Where has THAT Nurkic been?
  • The Sixers are a well-coached team but I could not figure out why they didn't send Embiid to the low post in the fourth quarter and let him go directly at Nurkic who played most of the final period with five fouls. My goodness, Nurkic will commit that sixth foul if you give him half a chance. in fact, the passive game officials aside, I thought he did commit his sixth foul two or three times but it just wasn't called
  • Like Nurkic, Shabazz Napier completely turned his game around in the second half. He missed his first six shots and struggled against the quickness of 76ers guard T.J. McConnell in the first half. But he hit seven of his last eight shots and was a big part of his team's late rally.
  • I'm not sure how much longer NBA officials will keep falling for Nurkic's flopping around but you have to figure it will reach that point.
  • CJ McCollum had one of those games we've come to expect of him -- making just about every open shot he got, including some big ones.
  • Somehow, Portland found its passion button in the second half. I don't know what triggered it, but it's been missing most of the season. What a difference when this team is playing with desperation and aggression.

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Lillard scores 30, but Trail Blazers stunned at the buzzer in Philadelphia

Lillard scores 30, but Trail Blazers stunned at the buzzer in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA -- A snakebit season just became more venomous for the Trail Blazers after a heartbreaking 93-92 loss in the final seconds to the Philadelphia 76ers at The Center. 

Robert Covington hit a three-pointer with 4.5 seconds left to give Philadelphia the lead and Mason Plumlee missed a close-range shot in the final seconds to send the upstart 76ers to their third straight win and eighth in past 10 games. 

Portland (18-27) lost for the fourth straight time and fell a season-low nine games under .500 and 7-18 on the road, despite 30 points from Damian Lillard. 

It was Lillard's missed free throw with 14.7 seconds that kept the Blazers lead at 92-90, setting up Covington's big shot. After Plumlee's miss, the Philadelphia players stormed the court and celebrated as the Blazers stood stunned.

"This one is on me,'' Lillard said.

Before the game, Blazers coach Terry Stotts said he was considering making some adjustments, but he declined to say whether it would be to his starting lineup, the rotation or tactical. 

It turned out to be to his starting lineup.

Initially, the 76ers released the starting lineups revealing the Blazers usual five -- Lillard, CJ McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu and Mason Plumlee. But just before player introductions, Noah Vonleh and Evan Turner were announced as starters in place of Harkless and Aminu. 

"You have to look at things different in hopes of stirring it up a bit,'' Stotts said before the game. 

It worked early as Lillard came out torching the nets by hitting seven of his first eight shots, and his 20 points in the first half helped the Blazer built a 13-point halftime lead. 

But behind rookie sensation Joel Embiid (18 points and 10 rebounds) and the sharp-shooting of Covington (22 points), the 76ers battled back, taking advantage of poor shooting from Portland (37 percent), which included 5-for-18 from McCollum and 2-for-10 from Turner.

Before the game, Stotts remarked that the Blazers have been "snakebit" this season by big shots or by players who normally don't shoot well hitting big shots. 

Little did he know, that storyline would repeat itself three hours later.

Next up: Blazers at Boston, 2 p.m. Saturday (CSN).