LIVE from DaModa as your Portland Trail Blazers host some other guy's Philadelphia 76ers in a rematch of the 1977 NBA Finals.
Portland is playing like it's primed for a return trip, as Rip City's revival continues to scorch its way through the winter with the Western Conference's best record. A couple hiccups aside, the Blazers look capable of playing with anybody and embarrassing some. Most recently, it was Charlotte, which was drawn and rose-quartered (as it were) by a Portland team that tied a franchise record for 3-pointers in a game with 21. When did they set that vaunted mark, you ask? Well, it was just this season, when Portland manhandled the Brotherly Lovers 139-105 on Dec. 14 in Philly behind 21 treys.
Two nights after hitting blackjack once again against the future-Hornets, Portland will likely be letting 'em fly once again against a Sixers squad allowing more 3s per game (10.3) than anyone in the league. Philly is, however, closing out a six-game road trip on a bit of an upswing. After knocking off the Lakers last week, they've won two more behind some career-best ball from Thaddeus Young. Of course, Portland has a roster full of guys in top form at the moment, from MVP candidate LaMarcus Aldridge (23 points, 11 boards per) to All-Star candidates Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum to Roster Addition of the Year (an award I just made up) candidates Robin Lopez and Mo Williams. Portland leads the league in 3-point percentage behind Lillard and Matthews and have hit at least eight in eight straight games. Can they make it nine (which, to keep with the theme, I should point out is 3x3)?
We've got a triple threat on our hands! So click past the jump and follow along as I deftly describe the action, on and off the floor.
Philadelphia (11-21, 11th in East)—Hollis Thompson and Michael Carter-Williams on guard. Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner up front. Spencer Hawes at center. On the bench: Lorenzo Brown, Tony Wroten, James Anderson, Brandon Davies, Jason Richardson, Elliot Williams, Daniel Orton, Lavoy Allen.
Portland (26-7, 1st in West)—Damian Lillard and Wes Matthews on guard. Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge up front. Robin Lopez at center. On the bench: Dorell Wright, Will Barton, Meyers Leonard, Earl Watson, Victor Claver, Joel Freeland, Allen Crabbe, Mo Williams, Thomas Robinson.
Both teams are sporting all-red warmups. From the 200 level, it looks like the Chinese National Team is holding an intrasquad exhibition.
Hawes—a University of Washington product—gets a smattering of cheers during intros. Random fact: Spencer's uncle, Steve Hawes, played with Blazers during the 1975-76 season.
FIRST QUARTER Away we go! Sixers win the tip.
11:09—Sixers strike first as Turner hits a 3 and, after a Blazer turnover get a reverse lay-up for Thompson. Good start for the road team. Sixers lead 5-0.
10:31—And now they lead 7-0 after Young hits a jumper.
10:13—Make that 9-0.
9:54—Lopez puts Portland on the board with a jumper from the top of the key. Crowd loves it sorta-sarcastically. WE WON'T HAVE A SHUTOUT TONIGHT, FOLKS!
8:51—The Sixers have hit their first six shots and lead 14-2. This is actually happening.
8:07—Portland will take a full timeout after Young steps into the lane and hits a little hook shot over Aldridge. Philly leads 16-2. Seriously.
7:42—Aldridge spins around Hawes and jams one home. A crowd desperate for something to cheer about gets just that. Philly still up a dozen.
4:14—Timeout on the floor. Philly leading 22-9 behind seven points from Turner. Sixers shooting 59%—Portland firing at a 40% clip with five turnovers. It seems this will not be a repeat of that Dec. 14 shellacking. Philly came to play. Williams and Freeland checking in for the Blazers.
2:28—Williams hits Portland's first 3 of the night to pull the Blazers back within a dozen. Only 20 more to go!
0:00—Aldridge hits a jumper to reach double figures, then gets a rebound to set up a final possession for Portland. They can't convert, however, and Philly leads 32-19 behind 58% shooting. Blazers shooting 36% and playing like they thought the game started at 7:30. Aldridge leading all scorers with 11 points, but Turner and Young are hot on his heels with 9 and 8, respectively.
SECOND QUARTER Leonard checking in for Portland.
10:24—Lillard goes strong to the hoop to put Portland within single digits. He's taken it to the rim on the last two possessions.
9:39—Anderson converts a 3-point play to put Philly up 37-23.
8:57—Timeout on the floor with Philly still up 37-23. Sixers are playing with a lot of confidence right now, and they should—they've won three straight on the road and look well on their way to getting a fourth.
8:04—Lillard with a pull-up 3 to ignite the crowd a bit.
7:00—Williams with a baseline jumper to pull the Blazers within seven. They've woken up a bit here, but are still shooting less than 40%.
5:23—Stotts takes another timeout after Wroten drives baseline and dunks two-handed, legs agape. Philly up 45-36.
3:50—Freeland with a pretty move to get around Hawes and drop in a layup. Blazers within a bucket, 45-42.
2:55—After Williams hits a 3, he finds Matthews leaking ahead in transition for an easy layup. Blazers on an 11-2 run and we're tied at 47. Portland has officially recovered from a very rough start, and the Blazers have all the momentum at the moment. Mo Williams leading all scorers with 14 points.
1:29—Aldridge hits a jumper from the right elbow (weird) and Portland has its first lead of the night at 49-48. "That's more like it," thinks everyone in the arena.
0:06.2—Turner gives Philly the lead with a drive to the lane and layup. Stotts takes a timeout and Portland will draw something up for the final possession of the half.
HALFTIME: Sixers lead 52-50. Philly carries an advantage into the half after squandering a 16-point lead early. They're shooting 51% and playing as good as they look in their fresh blue jerseys. Turner leading the way with 15 points.
Portland, meanwhile, is back in this one after a nearly disastrous start. They're shooting 42% and just 3 of 14 from distance. Mo Williams with 14 points to set the pace, followed at Aldridge, who has 13.
SECOND HALF: And we're back at it...Blazers with the ball.
11:51—Blazers tie it up as Batum finds Aldridge going back-door. A dunk happens, and we're knotted at 52.
9:50—Batum finds Matthews for an alley-oop dunk to give Portland a 56-54 lead. Biggest roar of the night from the ninth sellout of the season here.
7:32—Batum with another lob inside, this time finding Aldridge. He lays it in and Portland is up 6.
6:32—Young ties it up with a 3 from the corner. He has 18 on the night and the Sixers aren't giving in after the Blazers looked like they might be taking control of this one..
5:57—Timeout on the floor. We're tied at 62. And hey, they did the "Kiss cam" without closing on two visiting players! Glad that slightly homophobic/super lame joke finally ran its course. Now about those McMuffins...
4:05—Batum follows a Williams miss with a tip-layup in traffic. Blazers up 70-66.
3:26—Philly takes a timeout down 70-66. Aldridge leading everyone with 23 points and 12 boards.
1:24—Blazers with their biggest lead—seven—after Williams hits a pair of throws.
0:00—Blazers close out the quarter on a 12-3 run and they lead, 76-69. This one feels well within Portland's control, especially on the glass: They're out-rebounding the Sixers 47-26. Aldridge leading the way with 27 points and 13 boards. Young pacing Philly with 22 points.
FOURTH QUARTER: Sixers will start with it.
10:54—Philly staying in this one. Allen with a little jump-hook in the lane to pull them within a bucket, 78-75.
9:58—Leonard fouled on a rebound. Before that, Lillard drives, stops and pops to keep Portland up 3. Sixers hanging around, but it certainly feels like it's just a matter of time before the Blazers put it away.
8:43—Wright with a no-look pass to Leonard, who dunks it home. Blazers up 82-77 and we have a timeout on the floor.
6:18—Turner with a tough baseline jumper to pull the Sixers back within a bucket. Blazers lead 84-82, but they can't seem to put Philly away.
5:48—Sixers tie it up. They're on a 7-0 run and the tide has turned a bit.
5:19—And now Philly leads. Hawes follows a Turner miss. Crowd cheering nervously as Blazers bring it down.
4:29—Philly up 4 after a Wroten layup. On the other end, Lillard misses a 3, but Aldridge is fouled on the rebound. Blazers turn it over and Wroten will get a bucket after Batum is called for goaltending. Philly on a 13-point run. Shades of the opening quarter.
3:41—Timeout on the floor. Sixers up 90-86 and holding the momentum as the Blazers have gone ice cold. Philly winning the quarter 21-10 with four players in double figures for the game.
2:32—Lopez hits a pair of free throws, and we're tired at 90. Crunch time.
1:29—Matthew takes an Aldridge pass and goes the hoop for a bucket AND ONE! He misses the free throw and we're tied at 92.
1:10—Young banks one in. Tough, hard-nosed shot there after Portland nearly steals it twice. Sixers up two.
0:55.8—Stotts takes a timeout. Sixers lead 94-92 and it's nervous time here. Blazers will have the ball. Shot clock is at 8, but they might reset it. And...nope.
0:54—Lopez drains a pair of free throws, and we're tied. Crowd on its feet.
0:36.2—Carter-Williams drives the lane and misses, but Batum can't box out Young, and the Sixers' leading scorer tips it home. Philly back up, 96-94, and Young has 30 points.
0:22.5—Matthews is fouled by Young and he'll head to the line with a chance to tie. He hits the first, BUT MISSES THE SECOND! The Sixers rebound and call a timeout. Big-time missed opportunity there, and Philly clings to a 96-95 lead. Blazers need a steal or a quick foul when we come back from the TO.
0:21.5—Batum fouls Carter-Williams right away. Batum looks like he might have jammed a finger there. Carter-Williams hits one of two. Sixers lead, 97-95.
0:20.3—Portland takes a timeout. Call on the floor is that Allen knocked it out of bounds on the rebound, but they're looking again. Looks like Blazers will have the ball with a chance to tie/win. BUT NO, THEY OVERTURN THE CALL, AND IT'LL BE PHILLY BALL. Huge break for the Sixers there. They'll take a timeout and then can go a long way toward putting this one away with a couple of free throws.
0:19.3—Hawes to the line after Lillard fouls him at midcourt. Fans hate the call. Hawes hits both and Philly leads 99-95. Timeout, Portland.
0:18.1—Batum lobs to Aldridge, who tips it in. Blazers down 2.
0:14.3—Turner goes the line after Batum fouls out. He hits 'em both and Philly leads 101-97.
0:05.4—Lillard drives and hits a layin. On the inbound, IT'S A TURNOVER! LOPEZ GETS THE STEAL! And the Blazers will take a timeout with a chance to tie/win again. What a gift.
FINAL: Sixers win, 101-99. Lillard gets to the rim but misses the layup. Carter-Williams is on the floor. Looks like he took an elbow to the head from his own teammate.
A big-time upset as Philly wins its fourth straight to close out its road trip. Portland sleepwalked into this game but closed the gap at half. But just when you thought they might put it away late in the third, Philly just kept battling.
Young leads all scorers with 30 point. Turner adds 23 and Carter-Williams chips in 16. For Portland, Aldridge sets the pace with 29 points and 14 rebounds. He's followed by Lopez, who goes for 14 points and 15 boards. Lillard had 16, Williams added 16 and Matthews has 13. Batum fouls out, but with a rare double-double—he had only 4 points, but had 10 boards and assists.
Probably the toughest loss of the season for the Blazers, who travel to Sacramento to play the Kings on Tuesday. They're back here Wednesday against another Eastern Conference club, Orlando.