Joel Embiid

That sound you hear is the Blazers eating the Sixers alive on the boards

That sound you hear is the Blazers eating the Sixers alive on the boards

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.”

 

Trail Blazers drub 76ers, who played without the world's best player

Trail Blazers drub 76ers, who played without the world's best player

The Philadelphia 76ers proved one thing Sunday night in Moda Center against the Portland Trail Blazers:

Their center, Joel Embiid, who sat the game out with a sore knee, may well be the best player in the world. He MUST be, to make the hapless-on-this-night Sixers worthy of a 23-14 record.

Philadelphia, which was just this side of pathetic against the Trail Blazers, shot only 35.4 percent from the field and an incredibly horrific 18.6 percent from three-point range. Portland, meanwhile, worked Philadelphia over to the tune of 59 percent from the floor and 54.5 percent from three – both season highs.

The Blazers’ 34-point victory was their largest of the season and they actually led by 43 at one point. They shot 65.6 percent after three quarters before turning the game over to the end of their bench.

“I was really proud of the way we played in the first half at both ends,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said.

The Trail Blazers got 35-51 shooting from their starters, with Evan Turner taking over for Maurice Harkless, who was resting a sore left knee. But the big news was that CJ McCollum was able to shoot his way out of a three-point slump that had been hindering him for a few weeks.

McCollum went 13-18 from the field and 4-7 from three-point range. He scored 35 points in just 27:50.

“Overall, I think we played a good game and I made some shots, which made it easier for everybody else,” McCollum said. “It was a big win for us going into a new year and a tough road opponent in the Sacramento Kings.

“I understand how much time I put in and how many shots I put up. I knew the tide would turn eventually.

“The important thing is to be yourself. If you’re a shooter, shoot it. If you’re a ball handler, handle the ball. If you’re a defensive player, defend.”

Sixer Coach Brett Brown pointed to the absence of Embiid and what it meant for his team.

“Just the reality of how much Joel means to the team,” Brown said, “I’ve said, I’ll say it again, I think he’s a defensive player of the year. You know, you feel him, whether you look at the points in the paint, it’s at 62 to 30, whether you look at the rebounding margin (59-36).

“And I think the guys that we had, we just struggled defending them. We missed a lot of shots, we had a hard time defending them and the combination is lethal.”

Very true, but I think it’s only fair to point out that the 76ers are very talented, even without their center. They have one of the best two-way players in the league in Jimmy Butler, supposedly. Butler went 2-12 from the floor.

They have JJ Redick, an all-time great three-point shooter who was 3-11 overall and 2-7 from three.

They have Ben Simmons, last season’s Rookie of the Year, who managed to go 7-12 from the field but just 5-10 from the foul line.

Simmons has a jump shot that looks like a right-handed player trying to work on his left-handed shots. Except that Simmons is left-handed.

The Trail Blazers, who got double-figure scoring from all their starters but Turner, who finished with 8, did a very good defensive job on the Sixers, one of those teams that insists on beating you with three-point field goals, even on nights when they are not going in for them. They finished a rather mind-boggling 8-43 from that range.

The Trail Blazers head for Sacramento Monday and meet the Kings on New Year’s Day.

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Philadelphia 76ers

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USA Today Images

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Philadelphia 76ers

It is the second night of a back-to-back for the Trail Blazers as Portland gets set to host the Sixers.

 

Before tonight’s game Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Sixers head coach Brett Brown gave updates to the media.

 

Stotts discussed how he feels that Meyers Leonard is most likely having his best season of his career. He has been pleased with his progression and how confident Leonard has been this year.

 

The Sixers pose a few challenges for the Blazers with big man Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler and Coach Stotts addressed both players’ strengths.

 

Coach Stotts also talked about what tonight’s game could look like with Embiid not on the floor.

 

“I think it changes more for them, than for us. Obviously, the guys will have more of an impact on the game. We’ll see if he doesn’t play… who gets those minutes and how Brett decides to rotate his players,” Stotts said. 

 

UPDATE: Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless (left knee) will NOT play tonight.

 

Hear from Coach Stotts:

 

 

Sixers Injury Update: Joel Embiid (left knee) was initially listed as questionable, but he has now been downgraded to OUT for tonight’s contest.

 

Coach Brown says the training staff is not worried about Embiid’s knee soreness.

 

“We’ll figure out what’s gonna happen tomorrow and go from there. It’s not anything that we’re concerned about – just reacting to, you know, his thoughts and the medical staff thoughts that perhaps it might be best to sit,” Brown said.


The Sixers will start Amir Johnson in place of the injured Embiid.

 

Hear from Coach Brett Brown:

 

 

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).