Blazers play on their heels, fall to 76ers
PORTLAND — Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan said he entered Monday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers with caution.
McMillan acknowledged that the 76ers started the night with only 7 wins. But Philadelphia was exactly the type of team that Portland has a tendency to struggle with, McMillan said. And the 76ers’ main assets — speedy, small guards; an up-tempo playing style; the ability to jump out on quick runs — were some of the Blazers’ primary weaknesses.
Moreover, Philadelphia possessed veterans such as Allen Iverson and Elton Brand who once presided over the NBA, and can still punish opponents on a good night.
McMillan was a seer: Every one of his predictions came true.
And a Blazers team that played on its heels the entire game walked off the Rose Garden floor with a 104-93 defeat to the 76ers before a sold-out crowd of 20,640.
With the loss, Portland’s (20-13) four-game winning streak came to a crashing halt.
“We didn’t play as well as we’re capable of playing,” McMillan said. “And I didn’t think we came with a sense of urgency that we’ve seen.”
Brandon Roy led the Blazers with a team-high 24 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge added 17 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Andre Miller and rookie Jeff Pendergraph contributed 11 points apiece, while Steve Blake added 10.
But despite having five players hit double figures in scoring, Portland shot just 42.2 percent (35 of 83) from the field. And a spirit-less Blazers team became jump shot-heavy during a second half in which they were outscored 61-44.
“We never established ourselves defensively,” McMillan said. “And offensively, some of the guys making shots (lately) didn’t make shots. And I thought we tightened up going down the stretch.”
Meanwhile, Philadelphia was on all night. Portland allowed the 76ers to shoot 57.7 percent (45 of 78) from the floor. And it was Philadelphia’s two-big name veterans who did the most damage.
“What can you say about Iverson?” McMillan said before tipoff.
After the game, the answer was obvious: A lot.
Iverson poured in 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, adding five assists and four rebounds. And he led all scorers with nine points during a decisive fourth quarter.
“(He’s) a big boost,” Philadelphia coach Eddie Jordan said. “He gives us so many other intangibles: leadership, communication; everything the best player is supposed to give you. And he’s still a very good player.”
Brand pounded away with a game-high 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting while collecting nine rebounds to top the 76ers (8-22). Andre Iguodala, Samuel Dalembert and Marreese Speights contributed 14 points apiece.
“It was the story of everyone playing well,” Jordan said.
The same could not be said for the Blazers.
And Portland’s lackluster effort in a disappointing loss proved that an injury-depleted Blazers team must give their all each and every game to come out ahead, McMillan said.
Portland’s coach stated that his squad too often walked the ball up the court and eased through the motions.
And he hinted that the Blazers played their opponents’ record, not the game.
“Having yourself ready is a skill. Not using or having a jersey or a name or an All-Star to motivate you,” McMillan said. “The game itself must motivate you, regardless of who you’re playing.”
Roy said the Blazers are fully aware they have to play at a high level, especially with centers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla lost for the season, and key players such as Rudy Fernandez, Nicolas Batum and Travis Outlaw out with injuries.
To Roy, Portland’s off night occurred because the Blazers were unable to find an extra gear to combat a strong-minded 76ers team that did what had to be done to claim victory.
“Coach (McMillan) said he could see it early,” Roy said. “And they just did a good job of scrapping down the stretch. … It seems like we kind of had tired legs.”
Blazers guard Jerryd Bayless scored two points and was 0 for 7 from the field. Bayless has hit just 2 of his last 17 field-goal attempts, following the career-high 31 points he scored Dec. 23 against the San Antonio Spurs. … Pendergraph continued to excel, setting a career high with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He added five rebounds and one block in 18:56 of action. … The Blazers committed just seven turnovers, the second time in three games Portland has recorded 10 or less. The Blazers’ seven turnovers also tied a season low. … Portland’s 20-13 record matches the team’s 33-game start last season.
Best Blazer: Brandon Roy scored a team-high 24 points on 9-of-20 shooting.
Big numbers: Philadelphia outscored Portland 60-40 in the paint.
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