Blazers End Home Losing Streak With Comeback Versus Sixers

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- And the home losing streak is finally over, and in the last home game of 2017 no less.

After dropping their last six games at home, the Portland Trail Blazers came back from 18 points down in the third quarter to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers 114-110 in front of a sellout crowd of 20,104 Thursday night at the Moda Center.

"It was a hell of a win, a hell of a fourth quarter," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "Everybody, especially in the fourth quarter, was tremendous. (Nurkić), after he came back, played with a lot of passion, a lot of energy. That was obvious. Shabazz (Napier) kind of got off to a slow start but really sparked us as well. A lot of good performances... Just a win that we needed and I liked how we did it."

The Trail Blazers are now 18-16 overall and 7-10 at home this season.

Despite playing without Damian Lillard (right hamstring strain) for the third consecutive game, the Trail Blazers handled themselves well in the first half against a team that outscored them 16-0 to start the previous meeting in Philadelphia. Portland trailed by as many as seven points in the first quarter, though they found their footing to enter the second trailing just just three.

And thanks to strong play in the second quarter from Evan Turner (five points), Nurkić (five points) and Ed Davis (six points), the Trail Blazers actually took a 52-51 lead into the intermission.

But things went back quickly for Portland at the start of the second half. A 16-1 Sixers run to start the third gave the road team a 67-55 lead after four minutes of second-half play. Four minutes later, a Dario Saric three gave Philly their largest lead of the night at 78-60, and at that point, Portland looked as though they would end the month of December without a victory at home for the first time in franchise history.

But the Trail Blazers, led by Napier and Nurkić, went on a 19-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter, turning a 85-74 deficit into a 93-88 lead. Napier would go 5-of-6 from the field and 4-of-5 from the free throw line for 15 fourth-quarter points after starting the game going 0-of-5 from the field.

"I just got to continue to play and think positive," said Napier. "The good thing about basketball is they say you've got another game the next day, but you also have two halves. I felt like I was kind of lethargic out there in the first half. Basically it couldn't get any worse, so I just went out there and tried to be positive about it and look forward to the next half."

While Nurkić, who played with a marked increase in aggressiveness after taking a shot to the nose in the third quarter, went for 10 points and four rebounds while playing almost the entire fourth with five fouls.

“I liked mad Nurkić," said CJ McCollum. "Mad Nurkić makes free throws, he dunks, he does a lot of different things that we need. And from a verticality standpoint at the defensive end, keeping those guys off the free throw line was big.”

By the time the game came to an end, Portland had scored 42 points in the fourth quarter, their most in any quarter this season, to come away with the four-point victory and their first win at the Moda Center since November 18.

"It felt great," said McCollum of breaking the home losing streak. "You never want to go through lulls of five, six, seven games in a row and they start taking about the jerseys, talking about your effort and all that stuff. You want to go compete and give yourself a chance. Tonight we did that throughout the game, especially down the stretch."

TOP SCORERS

CJ McCollum led all scorers with 34 points on 9-of-20 shooting from the field, 2-of-5 shooting from three and a perfect 14-of-14 from the free throw line. McCollum also added seven rebounds, four assists and a steal in 38 minutes.

Shabazz Napier, who started his second-straight game in place of Damian Lillard (right hamstring strain), scored 22 of his 23 points in the second half while also finishing with three rebounds, three assists and three steals in 34 minutes.

Jusuf Nurkić arguably got the better of the center battle Thursday night, finishing with a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds in 28 minutes. Ed Davis went a perfect 5-of-5 for 10 points in 17 minutes.

Joel Embiid led the 76ers with 29 points on 9-of-21 shooting from the field and 6-of-12 shooting from three, nine rebounds, four assists and a block in 35 minutes.

LISTEN UP

LILLARD NOT QUITE READY TO RETURN

After sitting out two games with a strained right hamstring, there was hope that Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard would return to the lineup for Thursday night’s game. While he wasn’t a full participant Wednesday’s practice, the 6-3 guard out of Weber State said he was only feeling minor discomfort and expected to be cleared after eight days of relative inactivity. And when he wasn’t listed on the team’s injury report, most just assumed that Lillard, who regularly plays through aches and pains, would be good to go Thursday versus the 76ers.

But Lillard was downgraded to questionable Thursday afternoon, and after going through a workout pregame, the decision was made to sit Portland’s starting point guard for at least one more game.

I felt good, but there's still just a little bit of discomfort and I think it's natural for any hamstring injury to take a little bit of time (before) you get completely comfortable,” said Lillard. “At this point, it only makes sense. I've had eight days and there's only been two games. That's been good. So it doesn't make sense to have that great of time to get back healthy and then go out there if I'm not feeling 100 percent. I feel like it made the most sense."

In the past, Lillard, who had only missed 17 games in the last five-plus seasons, probably would have pushed harder to play Thursday night. But he's since come to realize that the short term benefit the team might get from him playing isn't worth the long term risk of significant injury.

"I almost played tonight anyway, but I just don't want to have to go out there and be thinking about it," said Lillard. "And I also don't want to go out there and hurt the team in a way where I might re-aggravate it and now I'm missing more time because I rushed into the game. So I don't want to do us a disservice in the grand scheme of things."

THEY SAID IT

“Basketball gods looking out for us. I think that was big. We got into the bonus early, guys could try to get downhill and did a good job of taking advantage of the hand checking and the bumping, and a lot of times penetration led to drop-offs and they were forced to foul.” -- CJ McCollum on Portland shooting 30 more free throws than Philadelphia Thursday night

NEXT UP

With Thursday's game in the books, the Trail Blazers head out for a three-game Eastern Conference road trip starting Saturday night versus the Hawks in Atlanta. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.