The Sixers absolutely embarrassed the Portland Trail Blazers to start the game and kept a foot on their necks throughout the first half, holding their opponents to a season-low total of just 34 points through two quarters. They did so by absolutely walling off the paint with Joel Embiid, sending multiple lengthy bodies at Damian Lillard every time he came within the arc, and benefitting from Portland’s loose play with the ball, forcing some turnovers and taking advantage of numerous giveaways from the Blazers.
The Sixers start fast
By intermission, Philly was up 23 points and looked to cruise their way to a well-deserved but easy dub. In the second half, however, the Trail Blazers stopped shooting themselves in the foot and rallied behind some steady offensive play from former Sixer Jerami Grant and Dame — who contributed with some reliable playmaking and worthy trips to the free-throw line despite an abysmal shooting night.
After a late 30-footer from Lillard, Portland cut the lead to just eight points with a little over 90 seconds remaining in the contest, but Philly’s early lead proved just enough to get them another win on their West Coast road trip.
In just his second matchup against Jusuf Nurkic since 2017 — he only played six minutes in their other clash — Embiid got pretty much anything he wanted against the Bosnian Beast and his backup, Drew Eubanks. Aside from some late foul trouble, there was nothing that could slow down the MVP candidate, as he put up 10 fourth-quarter points to put the pesky Blazers away.
James Harden’s great effort flies under the radar
James Harden chipped in a quiet triple-double, albeit with some gorgeous dimes, grabbing 16 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds for the night. Tyrese Maxey continued his late Sixth Man of the Year campaign push with another efficient outing with 15 points on a stellar 7-12 shooting. His off-beat tempo and difficult shot-making was a big reason for the Sixers’ offensive success in the first half of this one.
The Philadelphia 76ers now have the chance to come home unscathed on their West Coast romp if they can best the equally hot Sacramento Kings on Saturday, January 21st. Their effective game plan that essentially shutdown the Lillard-Nurkic pick-and-roll should be on full display against De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis as well.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum