I honestly was expecting a loss to the Trailblazers, it just didn’t play out the way I anticipated.  The Sixers were not a tired team playing in the second game of a back-to-back on the west coast in Portland. They shot 50 percent from the field, limited turnovers (10) and even outrebounded the superior-sized Blazers. 

In the end Wesley Matthews’ (pic at left) 17 first quarter points, a quarter in which Portland ended up with a healthy 36 total, was too much for the 76ers (36-34) to overcome.  We didn’t hold a single lead in the 110-101 loss, which was a sour ending to the five game road trip.

Andre Iguodala’s sore knee held out the Sixers glue man, giving Evan Turner his first start in ages.  Turner produced another discouraging effort at this point in the regular season.  His early foul trouble limited him to 17 minutes with six measly points and three rebounds.  Oh and he also was credited with a team-high three turnovers.  Turner didn’t lose this team the game because he just simply can’t stay on the court long enough too.  Tonight’s performance makes it abundantly clear that ET probably should get comfortable with being a spectator because that’s whta his role should be limited to when the playoffs roll around in a month.   

Without AI9 suited up, Gerald Wallace became the decisive X-factor putting up some highly impressive stats— 25 points, (8-of-12 shooting), 8 assists, 6 boards and 4 steals.  And as mentioned before the jump, Matthews finished with 28 points, his highest scoring output since the all-star break.  There’s no telling how many less points each of these Blazers has with Iguodala’s  presence on the glass and perimeter, but it’s certainly a lower number.  So, Sixers fans should take Saturday nights loss with a grain of salt.

There have been 22 games since the first day of February and Jrue Holiday has scored 10 points or less in 10 of those 22 games (45 %).  Holiday responded well after I cited him as one of the reasons for last week’s slump, averaging 16 in the last two road games against LAC and the Kings.  This Blazers game could have been a moment for him to remind all of us what the offense would be like without Iguodala, a situation he’s actually flourished in earlier this season.  But Holiday was bothered by Nicolas Batum’s height for majority of the evening misfiring on 3-of-11 from the floor and tallying just seven points.  

After trailing 62-54 at the half, Philly was like that annoying stink-bug in Portland’s house; they just refused to go away.  Down 83-73 with 3:30 in the third the bench sparked a 10-4 run cutting the Portland lead to a capable four points heading to the fourth.  A pair of Lou Williams free throws and a three pointer, some nifty Thad Young lay-ins, three straight jumpers from Brand and the hustle of Andres Nocioni (who?!) gave Portland a scare as the Sixers got within three points at 92-89 with 9 minutes remaining.  But that was a close as the Sixers would get last night.  The Blazers leaned heavily on Matthews, Miller, Wallace and Aldridge down the stretch and they closed out the 7-6.

The bench finished with 59 points: Louis (24), Thad (19) and Nocioni with 10 and Tony Battie with six.   The last time Nocioni played more than 10 minutes was on January 24th and the last time he scored over 10 was in the huge Bulls win on January 7th.  Louis prevented this one from possibly becoming a blowout.

Was this a battle and a war lost for the Sixers?  Portland coach Nate McMillian sure is getting a lot out of a team without strong guard play and no true center.  As a result, he has to be tossed into the coach of the year category with Doug Collins, Tom Thibodeau and Gregg Popovich.

Philadunkia Notes:

  • The Blazers connected on a whopping 25-of-29 free throws, good for 86.2 percent
  • Jodie Meeks hit 7-of-9 shots and quietly ended up with 17 points. The second year man is averaging a surprising 14.5 a game in March. Can we count on this continue in the playoffs?
  • Elton Brand was -18 in 35 minutes. I know I keep saying it, but this man needs a break.
  • Right now the Sixers sit tied with the Knicks (idle last night) at the six seed and are 3.5 games behind the Hawks.
  • The Sixers now get their longest break for the rest of the season.  The next game is Wednesday March 23rd at Wells Fargo against those Atlanta Hawks.
  • Of course has the highlights of the Sixers L in Portland.

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