Game Night: Sixers @ Trail Blazers

by Max Rappaport Writer

Saturday, December 29, 10:00 PM (EST) at Rose Garden, Portland, OR

14-16 (4th Atlantic, 9th East)


14-14 (3rd Northwest, 9th West)

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G Damian Lillard vs. G Jrue Holiday

Rookie Damian Lillard didn't take the traditional path to the NBA. The 6-3 point guard was not heavily recruited out of Oakland High School, receiving just a two-star (out of five) rating from He committed to little-known Weber State in Ogden, Utah, where he would go on to have an impressive college career. His time at Weber State was capped off by a Junior season in which he averaged 24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.5 steals. That performance was enough to draw the attention of scouts around the NBA and prompt Lillard to leave school a year early and declare for the 2012 Draft. He was selected sixth overall by the Portland Trail Blazers, for whom he's lived up to the hype that surrounded him. And then some. The rookie guard leads all first-year players in points scored (512), assists (184), steals (30), three-pointers made (63), and minutes played (1,059). On the year, he's averaging 18.3 points (41.5 FG%), 6.6 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game.

Jrue Holiday is the player who's made it all go for the Sixers. Averaging 18.2 points (44.4 FG%), 8.9 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.4 steals a night, the fourth-year guard is making a case for Most Improved Player this season, not to mention a compelling argument for his first All-Star bid. Against the Golden State Warriors Friday night, he played a game-high 40 minutes and posted 21 points (7-19 FG), 10 assists, and a pair of steals in a losing effort. He'll look to avoid fatigue Saturday night against the Blazers, the second game of a back-to-back.

The Key

Damian Lillard, much like Holiday, is a player who can score from almost anywhere on the floor. With his ability to shoot, drive, and dish when isolated with his defender, he poses a nightmarish matchup for whomever is assigned to guard him. The rookie shoots an impressive 44.9% from midrange, an area of the floor that yields inefficient results for most players. Staying honest on Lillard and not allowing him to get space in which to operate from inside the three-point line will be key in limiting his effectiveness.



Heating Up

After opening the season 6-10, the Blazers are winners of eight of their last 12 and six of their last eight. In their first 20 games, Portland allowed its opponents to average 102.0 points a night. Since then, they've allowed opponents to score just 93.4 points per game. 

Tired Legs?

While the Sixers are coming off a road game Friday night in Golden State, the Trail Blazers, too, are coming off a tough game on the road. Friday night, the Blazers faced the red hot Los Angeles Lakers, losing 104-87 in regulation. However, Portland head coach Terry Stotts was able to rest many of his key starters down the stretch, as his team fell behind by almost 30 early in the fourth quarter.

Letting 'Em Fly

The Trail Blazers feature the league's top three-point shooting starting unit; Portland's starters make an average of 6.5 threes a night. Who's second in the league? The Golden State Warriors (6.3), who knocked knocked down seven threes when they played the Sixers Friday night.