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From the Start (Snap Judgments: Portland Trail Blazers at Philadelphia 76ers)

Robert Cole/ALOST
Defense was the order of the day for the Sixers, especially when it came to slowing down Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum, as the star guard hit just one of his 14 shots from the floor on Wednesday. (Robert Cole/ALOST)

 

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

 

PHILADELPHIA — Before going into a holiday, an NBA team playing right before that day would love to get a win, especially doing so by getting off to a good start. The start that the Philadelphia 76ers got off to on Wednesday night will sure make Thanksgiving dinner taste even sweeter.

The Sixers scored the first 16 points of the game and never saw their lead go down below three possessions as Philadelphia put on its best defensive performance of the season so far with a 101-81 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at Wells Fargo Center. What keyed the defensive surge was their start on that end of the floor, as the Sixers forced Portland to miss its first 13 shots from the field.

While the Trail Blazers couldn’t buy a bucket, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric spurred the Sixers’ offense, with the Australian hitting a couple of shots while providing two assists in that stretch. Saric scored five points in that early, yet decisive run, including a three-pointer which gave Philadelphia a 10-0 lead.

The anchor of Philadelphia’s defense, center Joel Embiid, ended up pacing the Sixers on offense tonight, scoring 28 points while pulling down 12 rebounds and two blocks. One of those blocks was another one of his patented volleyball spikes, a block on a layup attempt by Damian Lillard near the end of the third quarter, which quickly turned into Embiid imploring the fans to make more noise in what was an already cacophonous setting inside the arena in South Philly.

Like the game on Monday against Utah, the block came at a time when the opponent started to sense that it might get back into the ball game after digging a huge deficit early. Also like the game against the Jazz on Monday, the block was part of a stretch of a few minutes where Embiid flashed his brilliance on both ends of the floor to put the game out of reach. One of his baskets late in the game came from a sky hook shot, a la Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Simmons ended the night with 16 points and nine assists for the Sixers, who have won four of their last five games overall and at home. Wells Fargo Center is quickly turning into one of the more intimidating and boisterous arenas in the NBA, and upcoming home games early next week against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards will only turn up the intensity inside a couple of more notches. The Sixers’ game is at home on Saturday against Orlando.

Lillard did lead the Blazers with 30 points, but made just 11 of his 27 field goal attempts. He did go 6-of-13 from three-point range, a stat which also highlighted how difficult it was for the All-Star guard to finish inside with the presence of Embiid, who played 30 minutes. Lillard’s backcourt mate, C.J. McCollum ended up having one of the worst nights of his NBA career, hitting just one of his 14 field goal attempts and scoring just five points.

*Editor’s note: Above the byline and story is the photo gallery from Wednesday night’s game, with all photos taken by our senior photographer, Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 34 pictures in total.

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