For much of this game, it looked like the Blazers were going down in typical fashion, another groan-inducing loss in a long streak of home court tragedies. It had been six weeks since Portland fans had seen this team win on their home court. With Philly riding high this season and Portland star Damian Lillard sidelined with a leg injury, things weren't looking good. Indeed, the 76er's led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter and all looked lost. But the Blazers didn't give up and behind strong play by reserve guard Shabazz Napier and big man Jusuf Nurkic, they mounted a thrilling comeback and won the game 114-110.
Philadelphia sports two of the most exciting new names in the NBA with super tall guard Ben Simmons and crazy talented huge man Joel Embiid. These guys had their way with the Blazers for much of the game and the home crowd seemed primed for yet another disappointing loss. Things seemed especially grim when Portland center Jusuf Nurkic collided with JJ Reddick in the third quarter and blood was spilled:
But Nurkic was back in the fourth quarter and those stitches in his nose somehow revived his play. Despite playing with five fouls he locked down on defense and rebounded like the beast we all loved at the end of last season. Shabazz Napier caught fire in the fourth as well. Up until then his play had been pretty weak, but suddenly he found a spark and led the comeback.
The final minute of this game were some of the best minutes of the season for the Trailblazers. They won all the loose ball battles and showed a passion which had only been fleeting for previous games. Philly made some classic "young team" mistakes, but they managed to keep things close with some crazy three point shooting down the stretch. Luckily CJ McCollum showed a steady veteran presence and held the Portland lead with very solid free throw shooting. He was 14 for 14 on free throws for the night and led the team with 34 points total.
So just as some fans may have been ready to write off the season, the Blazers show signs of fight once again. They finally broke that ugly 6 game home losing streak, and proved they can beat a good team even without their best player on the court. They travel to Atlanta next to take on a team they should be able to beat, even without Lillard. They play at 4:30 pm on Saturday. A win there would make it three in a row, a genuine winning streak!