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Blazers dominate 76ers with 3-pointer as primary weapon

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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PORTLAND — Without three key frontcourt players — LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez and Chris Kaman — the Portland Trail Blazers backed up behind the 3-point line and fired away without a second thought Friday.

The Blazers matched a franchise record with 43 attempts from beyond the arc and made a season-high 18, outscoring Philadelphia by 45 points on 3-pointers in dominating the 76ers 114-93 at Moda Center.

“It was a good effort, wish we’d gotten a few more 3s up,” Portland coach Terry Stotts quipped.

Guards Damian Lillard (game-high 28 points) and Wesley Matthews (25) did much of the damage as Portland won without Aldridge (upper respiratory illness), Lopez (broken hand) and Kaman (whose wife was expecting a baby).

Matthews was 7 of 14 from long distance, Lillard was 3 of 8, and six other Blazers made at least one 3-pointer.

“They were “mostly good 3s,” Stotts said of his team’s shot selection. “I don’t care how many 3s we take as long as they’re in rhythm, preferably off the pass rather than the dribble, and in the flow of the game.”

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said the 76ers’ switching defense failed, “and there were so many mental mistakes. … Leaving corners, shooting gaps, closing out with our hands at our thigh — those are things we will learn from.”

Lillard said he made a conscious effort throughout the game to drive and then pass the ball back outside.

“Once we got in the paint, they were really collapsing,” he said of the 76ers. “We were making the right plays. We were small and had a lot of shooters on the floor.”

Philadelphia couldn’t keep pace from the outside; the 76ers were 3 of 14 from behind the 3-point line.

Portland was 42 of 88 from the field, going 24 of 45 on 2-point attempts, with eight dunks and eight layups.

“They run their sets pretty well,” 76ers guard Tony Wroten said. “Having Damian, and having to react to his pick-and-roll opens things up for them.”

Matthews has made at least five 3-pointers in seven games this season, and he leads the NBA with 90 baskets from beyond the arc. Lillard, with 85 baskets from 3-point distance, is second in the league.

“This was certainly a different kind of game, with Chris and Robin and L.A. not being there,” Stotts said.

Stotts, minus his usual low-post threat (Aldridge), reinvented his starting lineup and improvised his player rotations.

Joel Freeland started at center, and Thomas Robinson got the start at power forward. Stotts used guards Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum along with veteran Steve Blake, and gave frontcourt reserves Meyers Leonard, Victor Claver and Dorell Wright prime-time duty.

Leonard, a 6-foot-11, third-year NBA player from England, responded with a game- and career-high 17 rebounds, 11 in the first half. His previous best rebounding game was 12; the 17 were the most by a Blazer in a game this season.

“Joel was terrific,” Stotts said. “He was aggressive and made a concerted effort to bother their shots. He had a presence. You know he’s there. This is the way he earned a spot in the rotation last year. He plays within himself and plays very hard.”

“Joel’s been grinding and been under the radar a lot,” Matthews said. “He’s found his niche.”

The Blazers, returning home from a 3-1 trip, improved to 24-7 overall, 13-2 at home with their fifth win in a row at Moda Center, and 13-1 against the Eastern Conference.

The 76ers, who had won two in a row, fell to 4-24, including 4-10 on the road and 0-8 against the Western Conference.

Wroten led the Sixers with 22 points, and starting guard Michael Carter-Williams added 17.

Brown, who expressed pleasure with his team’s recent defense before the game, watched as the Blazers calmly shot to a 61-51 halftime lead. Portland took the lead for good at 14-12 midway through the opening quarter.

Nicolas Batum and Matthews led the way early on offense. Batum had 10 of his 14 points in the first quarter, and Matthews scored nine points in the second quarter.

The Blazers kept up the pace in the third quarter, making 5 of 11 from the line to lead 88-74 going into the final 12 minutes. Lillard, after a quiet first half, scored 14 points in the third quarter.

Philadelphia never got closer than 12 points in the final period.

NOTES: Philadelphia swingman Hollis Thompson sat out his third straight game with an illness while F Furkan Aldemir suited up. Aldemir went five minutes after missing the previous three games with plantar fasciitis. … In their two victories before Friday, the 76ers allowed 88 and 87 points at Orlando and Miami respectively. “Lately we’ve been playing pretty good defense,” Brown said. “We are in a little bit of a rhythm. We’ve got a little bit of a thing going.”

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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