Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Trail Blazers @ 76ers: Game 43

We've discussed house of horrors, but for this core group of players, the Philadelphia 76ers has been a team of horrors lately. With last month's 104-93 loss, which included getting outscored by 17 in the 2nd half, the Trail Blazers (25-17) are 1-5 in their last 6 games against Philadelphia (13-27). The good news for Portland is that guard Brandon Roy will return to action tonight after missing the previous two games with a sore hamstring. The Monday morning loss really put the Trail Blazers behind the 8-ball in terms of having a successful road trip. The Wizards were seen as being the most winnable game, followed by the Pistons game. Many fans were hoping for a 3-1 trip, but now 2-2 would be a Godsend. For whatever reason, even without former Trail Blazer killer, Andre Miller, the Sixers have our numbers.
Again, with no Gregzilla, I fully expect their front-court of Samuel Dalembert, Elton Brand, and Mareese Speights to give our depleted bigs fits once again. Back on December 38th, those three players combined for 53 points, 19 rebounds, and 5 blocks. In fact, Brand had somewhat of a welcome back party against Portland as his 25 points tied a season-high and his 11 made field goals were the high mark for the year to date. We've seen Aldridge out-rebound Dwight Howard recently as well as grab 15 boards against the likes of Brendan Haywood, but he really needs to get scrap tonight and not only be a force on the glass, but not let Brand gain the critical post position he got in Portland. Whatever the reason, smaller, yet bulkier forwards such as Brand and Z-Bo, bother Aldridge as he can't use his length to disrupt their shot. I'm not sure Aldridge is built to stop Brand from bull-rushing him on the blocks, but what he can do is fight for position or even front him to deny the ball entering in the post at all.
Just as he did in Washington, Andre Miller will once again be the catalyst and spark anything positive the Trail Blazers do tonight. Even with Roy back, I would like to see a lot of the offense set up through Andre. He'll most likely have the smaller Louis Williams on him and we should post up Dre until Philly decides to do something about it. Hopefully, Philly comes with a double team and the likes of Martell, Rudy, and Brandon are on from downtown.
The key to the game will be field goal percentage. In the last meeting, Philly shot a scorching 57.7% from the floor, mainly from the paint as the 76ers dominated down low with 60 points. Portland just isn't a good enough offensive team to win by out-scoring opponents and if we play the type of matador defense we played with against Washington, this game could turn ugly. I'm going to go Mike Rice on this prediction and say that if Portland holds the Sixers to under 45% field goal shooting they will win and limit the points in the paint to under 45 as well.
Unfortunately, with no Joel or Greg, I envision Brand and Dalembert giving Aldridge, Pendergraph, and Howard fits down low throughout the game. We couldn't stop them three weeks ago, even with a home court advantage, so I'm sure sure there is reason to believe we can do it on the road. I really do think we are the more talented squad, but it's one of those things where I need to see us finally beat this team before I can start predicting them to do so. Do I think we can win? Yes, most definitely. Do I think we will win? Unfortunately not.
Game 43 Prediction: Trail Blazers 92 76ers 99
Post-Game Thoughts
The Trail Blazers finally exercised some demons tonight by knocking off the Sixers 98-90, but at what cost? Brandon Roy gave it a go and it was a great effort, as he tallied 10 points (4-6), 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in only 18 minutes of action, but as he tried to explode off of the leg with the sore hamstring, he came up grabbing it. Roy is listed as day-to-day for now, but it is wildly expected that he will miss the final two road games at the very least.
"We are going to have to look into seeing if we are going to rest him [Roy] the rest of this road trip," said Portland coach Nate McMillan. "We have to see if it's a pull or if it's just going to tighten up again."
The two things Portland had to do tonight, hold Philly to under 45% field goal shooting and less than 45 points in the paint, they did. The 76ers came close to each mark but fell short by only shooting 43.6% from the field and obtaining 42 points in the paint. Elton Brand had another strong game with 13 points on 6-8 from the floor, but Coach Nate threw some great defensive schemes at him at the right time, most notably was Bayless leaving his man and doubling down. Aldridge also did a great job of not getting bullied in the post and controlling the backboard with 9 boards compared to Brand's 4.
Back to Bayless, if Coach Nate gave out the mythical "game ball", he would definitely have to be the recipient. As soon as Roy went out near the end of the 1st half, all Blazer fans, players too, knew someone would have to step up in his absence. Known for his love of the limelight, Jerryd did not disappoint as he scored 18 points (7-12), handed out two dimes, and had three clutch steals all in only 21 minutes of action. The biggest statistic? Bayless dropped 16 of his 18 points in the 4th quarter, including a stretch of 8 straight points to put the Trail Blazers up for good at 79-73. I am a huge Jerryd fan/supporter, and these types of games are exactly why. He is always prepared mentally to take on all challenges and is fearless when taking it to the rim.
A big thank you to the Blazers for proving me wrong. Aldridge showed up big time and carried us in the first half. In the end, he totaled. 23 points (8-13), 9 rebounds, and even dished out 4 assists as he is already in post-All-Star break mode. Also, it must have been sweet revenge for Andre Miller as he stuck it to his former team who really made no effort to re-sign him in the offseason. Dre, along with Juwan, were apart of a big 3rd quarter that saw Portland weather the Philadelphia storm. Really, since Andre was inserted in the starting lineup, his performances have been like clockwork and tonight was no different. Dre had a game-high 24 points (8-17) and 3 assists. He really flourishes in the open court and with the athletes we have on this squad, we should be looking to run nearly every opportunity.
"We are forced to play up-tempo with all the injuries," Miller said. "With all the injuries, we have to play more aggressive on the perimeter."
Finally, "You've got to make your free throws!" Portland did just that. They shot an amazing 22-25 over the course of the game, including 14-14 in the 2nd half and 9-9 in the 4th quarter.
Box Score

1 comment:

  1. I'm continually amazed at Portland's ability to compete with their current frontcourt.