Portland's role players stepped up and competed from the jump.
The Blazers, who entered Thursday’s contest against the Philadelphia Sixers with just nine players available, started the game making six of its first 10 field goal attempts.
And the hot shooting continued.
The Blazers and Sixers were all tied up at 28 at the end of the first quarter.
With four of Portland’s five starters sitting out with injuries, it was a chance for the young guys – Gary Trent Jr., Anfernee Simons, and CJ Elleby to take the reins and ball out.
And that’s exactly what they did.
After a tied game at 57 at the break, the Blazers then went on a 19-4 run early in the third quarter and continued to roll to a 121-100 victory.
With the victory, the Blazers snapped the Sixers’ four-game winning streak and handed Philadelphia just its seventh loss of the season and just their second home loss.
Philadelphia was playing on the second night of back-to-back and were without Ben Simmons (left; tightness), Terrance Ferguson (health and safety protocols), and Mike Scott (right knee; swelling).
Midway into the first quarter, Sixers fans also had a scare.
Joel Embiid left the game after coming down wrong when he went up to contest Enes Kanter. Embiid was holding his knee before he limped back to the Sixers bench.
He returned to the game in the final minutes of the first quarter.
And it was the Sixers big man who helped his team hang around in the first half. Embiid notched 31 by halftime.
Trail Blazers veteran Rodney Hood knew that with a shorthanded squad, it was up to him to score, play-make, and defend. Between Hood and Carmelo Anthony looking for their shots and Robert Covington bringing the extra energy at both ends, Portland looked to its healthy veterans Thursday.
But it was also a night where the Blazers could play like they had nothing to lose and with their aggressive play from Gary Trent Jr., Anfernee Simons, and CJ Elleby, the Blazers looked like a cohesive team on a mission.
Elleby brought the energy and the no fear attitude while even taking it right at Dwight Howard.
The rookie brought the hustle.
Elleby notched seven rebounds (three offense) to go along with 15 points and two blocks in the win.
The Blazers as a team were aggressive and attentive on the defensive end making it difficult for the Sixers’ wings to get going offensively.
Joel Embiid has been playing on another level this season.
He had his way with the Blazers, especially early, like he has had with the majority of NBA teams this year. The Sixers center, who is looking like the MVP favorite, went 11-of-17 from the floor in the first half and a perfect 9-for-9 from the line. He finished with 37 points and five rebounds.
Philadelphia went 0-for-10 from deep in the first half.
As for the Blazers, injuries have been one of the biggest storylines of the season.
This is the full list of injured Blazers:
- Damian Lillard (abdominal strain)
- Derrick Jones Jr. (left foot sprain)
- Nassir Little (left knee sprain)
- CJ McCollum (left foot fracture)
- Jusuf Nurkic (right wrist fracture)
- Zach Collins (left ankle fracture)
Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts said ahead of Thursday’s game that Damian Lillard “is day-to-day. We’ll see how he feels when we get to New York.”
While Anfernee Simons, who is dealing with a hamstring issue, was limited to a 20-minute restriction.
But it didn’t look like the hamstring was bothering the third-year player too much when he took it coast-to-coast at the end of the third quarter to put the Blazers up 97-76.
The Blazers rookie CJ Elleby, who had averaged 5.5 minutes before Thursday’s game, was flying around the court and bringing the extra energy.
And then there was this steal and dunk...
And just one more... A three from the wing.
What a difference from behind the arc – Portland finished the game 13-for-31 compared to Philadelphia’s 7-for-21.
Next up: Portland wraps up its six-game road trip Saturday night in New York. The Blazers and Knicks tip-off at 10:00a.m. PST on NBCSNW.