The Trail Blazers attacked rebounds Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia the way a pack of dogs would go after cheesesteak scraps over at Pat’s or Geno’s emporiums of the local specialty.
The 76ers were eaten alive on the boards – a 53-33 advantage for Portland that included a whopping 19 offensive rebounds -- and were outplayed at both ends of the court.
The final score was 130-115 but the game was not nearly that close.
Without all-star center Joel Embiid, the Sixers were lost. Portland had 66 points in the paint and 19 second-chance points. The Trail Blazers’ double-barreled center combo of "Nurk and The Turk" -- Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter -- was dominant, just as it had been at Brooklyn Thursday against the Nets.
Nurkic had 24 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in just 23:32. He hit nine of his 13 shots. Kanter had 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 20:40.
The inside scoring made up for another sub-par shooting night from three-point range, as Portland made just five of 23 from long range.
And balanced scoring was a big deal, with seven players in double figures. The Blazers moved the ball well enough to get 29 assists while coughing up just 11 turnovers.
That made it a rare night when Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were not as necessary as usual. Lillard finished with 17 points and McCollum with 15. They each went 1-5 from three-point range. But both are willing passers and Lillard finished with eight assists in just under 30 minutes of duty.
“We don’t need Dame or CJ to score 25 each,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “Obviously, we're a team in transition. We're still finding out what works for us. Hopefully that’s a good sign that we can continue to score the ball with Damian and CJ maybe having off-nights.”
Portland was very attentive on defense in this game, even though the Sixers’ 48.3 shooting percentage speaks to the contrary. Anytime you can hold JJ Redick to 1-10 shooting, you’re doing something right.
“It’s an early game,” Nurkic said after the game, which started at 1 p.m., local time. “First to wake up wins.”
Nurkic got into a iittle back-and-forth with Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and it prompted a quip after the game.
“I’m a better shooter than him,” Nurkic said. “I am for sure, that. The way he’s able to shoot – or not able to shoot – is ridiculous. But it is what it is.”
And the big rebounding edge?
“They tried to get small to get back in the game,” Nurkic said. “And we did a good job of not letting them make a run.”
Kanter passed the credit around for the big rebound advantage.
“When we have bigs like Nurk and myself… and not just the bigs, when you see Jake got 11 rebounds today… and not just him, but Mo and Al-Farouq Aminu, when we all crash the boards like that, it’s very tough for other teams to get fastbreak points,” Kanter said. “That’s making the game easier for us.”