Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers welcome the Philadelphia 76ers. That band-aid on the pinwheel logo won't come off until someone/anyone/Rudy returns to the lineup, but the Blazers are hardly the injury-riddled pile of sadness they were a few weeks back. Winners of four straight—five after tonight—the team very well might end up with sole possession of first place with a win tonight (I already said that was going to happen) and a Denver loss in Sacramento (I won't guarantee that). A possible first place Blazers team? With Juwan Howard starting at center and six players on the inactive list? Unbelievable.
The 76ers are a bit of a mess, and no more blaming Mo Cheeks for their troubles. Andre Miller's former team has dropped three in a row and is saddled with an embarrassing 7-22 record on the year. While they have Allen Iverson back, his age is both evident on the court and on the injury report (arthritis in left knee) as well. Bum knee pending, he'll be back in the lineup tonight. What Philly does have going for them is a winning streak against the Blazers (two in a row), and they have even taken five of the last seven here at the Rose Garden.
Iverson—arthritis and all—is getting the start with Lou Williams for the 76ers. Miller on Iverson is a nice matchup, considering they were pretty much traded for each other years back.
9:37 - Following a couple of shots that tease the rim (I just copied that term from Savage Love), Martell Webster sneaks off and gets a nifty breakaway dunk. 6-4 Blazers.
7:56 - He can't block and rebound like Przybilla or Oden, but Juwan Howard can pass. He tosses a nice behind the back bounce-pass to Webster for yet another dunk. 8-8 tie.
6:54 - I take that back. Howard lazily tosses an in-bounds pass that gets stolen by Thaddeus Young, who easily lays the ball in. 12-9 Philly.
3:44 - Steve Blake takes a jump shot and it gets swatted into the seats by Samuel Dalembert. That shot went backwards. 'Atta boy, Blakey. Thankfully on the same possession Brandon Roy knocks back his second three-pointer of the night. 22-21 Philly.
1:12 - I'm pretty sure Roy just fixed his hair between free-throws. Priorities. 22-22 tie.
0:30 - Blake for three and the Blazers will go into the quarter break with a lead... over a team with seven wins. Let's all celebrate. 25-22 Portland.
10:55 - Forget Jerryd Bayless, what about the Jeff Pendergraph? One of the many fresh faces that gets playing time in this skeleton crew, he puts back a Bayless missed layup with a two-handed dunk. Plus he's a little crazy in the head. That might explain his Twittering about open relationships... on Christmas day. Just like the lord intended. 29-26 Blazers.
9:06 - And he can shoot. Pendergraph is left all alone—Elton Brand shows no respect—and he buries a 12-footer. He's three-for-three on the night. 31-27 Blazers.
8:02 - I would have preferred he take on Iverson one-on-one, but Bayless slows down a fastbreak and tosses it to Blake for another three-pointer. Looks like his horrid shooting cold streak is over. 36-30 Blazers.
5:56 - Miller tosses a football pass to a cutting Dante Cunningham for a breakaway layup. That was beautiful. I want to cry like Tim Tebow. 40-36 Blazers.
4:01 - Miller splits just about everyone in a 76ers jersey, makes it to the rim, and then passes at the last second to Roy in the far corner. Three points. 47-38 Blazers.
0:00 - A sloppy final possession doesn't help their cause, but the Blazers are still hanging on to that six point lead at the break. 49-43 Blazers.
12:00 - The Blazers were out-shot (50% to 43%) and out-rebounded in the first half, but they still have the six point cushion thanks to a remarkable 5-8 shooting from beyond the arch. It's also not a good sign when Pendergraph has as many points (that would be six) as LaMarcus Aldridge at the break.
9:45 - Howard's defensive plan of acting perfectly still did little to stop Dalembert from just dribbling around him and softly laying the ball in the basket. Howard looked like one of those street performers painted to resemble a statue. When is Pryzbilla back again? 2011? Ugh. 55-49 Blazers.
7:54 - Williams tosses to Igudala for a flying alley-oop dunk. You stole that move from the Blazers. Rudy deserves royalties. 59-51 Blazers.
5:54 - How long before we see Pendergraph starting? He's got a few kinks to work out (that monster dunk he just threw down is not one of them), but I could very well see him in the starting five sometime next year. 63-59 Blazers.
4:49 - Royal Ivey is in the game. That is only worth mentioning because he has my favorite NBA name. That thing should be on a crest. Or a monogrammed shirt. Or a shield. 65-60 Blazers.
3:09 - Well, his name is now on the scoreboard. Ivey hits a three and takes away the Blazers lead. 69-69 tie.
2:15 - 76ers lead! Iverson was right, this is all because Portland practices so much. 71-70 Philly.
0:37 - Blake throws a terrible pass, which leads to a fast-break, which leads to two points. I feel like I have been typing that sentence for years and years and years and years... 75-73 Philly.
0:00 - And it continues. Blake doesn't box out Ivey, who rebounds the ball and knocks back a fall-away two at the buzzer. Ladies and gentlemen, Steve Blake! 77-73 Philly.
11:25 - Bayless is 0-6 shooting on the night, but he keeps firing up shots like he's made them all. Tenacious. Crazy. Same thing, right? 77-75 76ers.
10:01 - Something has to turn around for the Blazers who are sleepwalking through the second half. The 76ers have clamped down on Roy and no one else seems particularly interested in picking up the slack. Except Bayless, who can't make a shot to save his life. 83-75 76ers.
7:32 - Bayless keeps shooting. Guess what happened? Did you guess double digit lead for Philadelphia? 87-77 Philly.
6:26 - Roy isn't fairing much better. His 6 for 16 on the night. Live by the jumpshot, lose to the 76ers with the jumpshot. So much for that bold prediction of mine. 91-78 Philly.
5:38 - Webster airballs a three. Blazers get the ball, Webster drops the pass. Recovers, missed the layup. That about sums it up. 93-81 Philly.
3:30 - Good defense breeds good offense, sadly the Blazers are letting the 76ers shoot nearly 60% on them. Iverson looks like the player from the '90s, not a 13-year vet suffering from arthritis. First place isn't happening tonight. 99-85 Philly.
1:43 - Roy for three. Airball. Yup, that about does it. 103-87 Philly.
0:00 - After calling their shot, the Blazers lose. Oops. Shield your eyes, it's the final score: Philadelphia 104, Portland 93. See you on Wednesday when the Clippers come to town. It can't get worse than this, right?