The Philadelphia 76ers (5-13) capitalized on a struggling Portland Trailblazers team to hand them their fourth straight loss with a 88-79 victory at home. After beating the New Jersey Nets on Saturday the Sixers clinch their first back-to-back wins of the new season and first consecutive wins since March 26th. The winning streak will be tested Friday when they travel to Atlanta to play the Hawks, a team that has won their last three matches.
What was most impressive about the ball game was how beautifully the ball club executed in the fourth quarter. Dominating the lifeless Trailblazers and holding them to only 11 points in the fourth. Portland only connected on 4-of-20 field goals to close out the ball game. The 76ers defense was stellar, during the final stanza and certainly a much better effort than what was seen in the first half.
We trailed 72-70 halfway through the fourth quarter before pulling together a 15-4 run. The run included four of Andre Igoudala’s seven points, four points from reserve center Tony Battie and was capped off by a knock-down three pointer from Andres Nocioni . Nocioni played exceptionally well off the bench with eleven points. Jrue Holiday, Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand joined Nocioni (11 points in only 16 mins.) as the only Sixers players who scored in double figures. Holiday was part of the fourth quarter run before fouling out.
With five fouls Holiday created a great steal late in the game but shortly after that tremendous play, he made two silly mistakes that sent him to the pine fro the rest of the night. Holiday forced a bad pass to Andre Igoudala streaking down the side in transition and had the ball batted away. Following the loose ball he fouled Wesley Matthews while trying to pry a steal. That would be his sixth foul of the contest and obviously he was ejected. Not a big deal in this particular game. However, he needs to be more careful in games moving forward. Holiday cant be so reckless in foul trouble situations with more meaningful matches. He is one of the best players on this team and we need his services late in games.
The 76ers got off to a very hot start in the first half, yet only led 47-46. We shot a stout 56.3% from the field to Portland’s 40.5%. The problem was — as we’ve seen so often this season — we were getting dominated in the paint by forward LaMarcus Aldridge who totaled 18 points and eight rebounds, six of which were offensive. It was the story of the season, getting punished by opposing bigs.
This time though, we adjusted impressively in the second half. The coaching staff had the 76ers double team Aldridge every time he touched the ball within foul-line range. They assigned Elton Brand to pester him and Brand forced, when he could, Aldridge to settle for jump shots beyond his range. The results were great as Aldridge finished with only two points in the second half on 1-7 shooting. The only player that truly gave the Sixers trouble was Wesley Matthews — finished with 26 points on 9/16 shooting.
After a lifeless start to the second half (again), head coach Doug Collins went deep into his bench. Collins subbed in Jodie Meeks for Evan Turner with 9:12 remaining in the third quarter. It was Jodie’s first action of the night and the last time we’d see the rookie Turner. Collins finished the game using 11 players who all tallied at least 10 minutes. A deep rotation which kept fresh legs in the long run and proved to be a winning formula. The only player dressed that did not see the floor was forward Darius Songaila.
With this quality win comes a sour note — Evan Turner. Turner had another awful performance and in his last four contests has totaled only seven points on 2-14 shooting. What’s more bothering is the lack of assertiveness in the offense. He has been extremely passive of late and seems uninterested at times. There are moments in the ball game when Igoudala is on the bench and Turner needs step into his role as the aggressor. Not once against the Trailblazers did he attempt to create opportunities for himself and his teammates, hence the reason he has see his minutes decline of late. I’m not crying bust at this point, but for the No. 2 overall pick of the draft you would hope he could be trusted in the winding minutes of close ball games and not sitting for the majority of the second half.
Otherwise a great win for the 76ers. Let’s see how this team fares in the next three ball games (@ Atlanta, vs. Charlotte, vs. Cleveland).
With back-to-back wins the 76ers can get back on track by winning 2-of-3 against beatable opponents.