Trail Blazers Vs. 76ers Preview
December 14th, 2013
By NOEY KUPCHAN
LaMarcus Aldridge is starting to garner some early MVP consideration after leading the Portland Trail Blazers to their best start in 23 seasons.
The Philadelphia 76ers, in contrast, haven't had much go their way of late.
The Trail Blazers try to stay unbeaten against the Eastern Conference as they face the woeful 76ers on Saturday night.
Aldridge is posting career highs of 23.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in helping Portland (19-4) to its best start since opening 21-2 in 1990-91. While the two-time All-Star doesn't play in a large media market, he is starting to receive some well-deserved acclaim.
"People probably don't know who I am, or what I do up here," Aldridge said. "Some people probably just don't like my game. I'm not flashy. I don't dunk. I don't do anything really exciting, you know?"
Aldridge turned heads in Thursday's 111-104 win over Houston, compiling 31 points and a career-best 25 boards for the first 30-25 effort in team history.
"He's a load," Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson said. "I don't think I can remember seeing someone who takes so many hard, contested, fall-away jump shots and consistently makes them. He's really, really good."
Four other players scored in double figures, including Wesley Matthews with 18 and Robin Lopez with 16. The Blazers are averaging 106.4 points to rank second in the NBA and are also among the league leaders in 3-pointers made (219) and 3-point percentage (40.9).
"I think we go into games with a certain level of confidence, but, at the same time, we realize that we're playing hard and our success is because we're playing hard," coach Terry Stotts said. "Our record is what it is, but it's not easy. You have to compete every night."
Portland has been especially good against the East, winning all eight matchups. The Blazers had taken three straight from the 76ers before falling 101-100 in Philadelphia on March 18 despite 32 points and 14 boards from Aldridge.
The 76ers (7-17) have dropped a season-worst five straight and 13 of their last 15 after falling 108-100 at Toronto on Friday. Tony Wroten had 23 points and five turnovers while filling in again for rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who missed his fifth consecutive game with a skin infection on his right knee.
"You leave and you feel a little bit empty. You feel like you had a chance to go get a road win and we didn't," coach Brett Brown said. "We've just got to come out sharper and tighter and with a little bit of an edge."
The 76ers are allowing 109.3 points per game, by far the worst mark in the NBA, and have allowed a league-high 221 3-pointers.
"We have to get off to better starts, especially defensively," said center Spencer Hawes, whose team was outscored 36-21 in the first quarter. "We can come here and keep saying it but, until we do, there's going to be no difference in the outcome."
Aside from trying to contain Aldridge, the 76ers will need to keep a close eye on Matthews.
Portland is 18-1 when he scores in double figures compared to 1-3 when he doesn't.
While Matthews was limited to six points in the last matchup, he is averaging 18.0 in six games against Philadelphia, his second-highest mark against any team.
Wroten is averaging 19.0 points in nine starts this season, but the Sixers are 1-8 in those games.
Philadelphia is also 1-8 against the West.