Anemic First Quarter Ends Trail Blazers' Chances Early In Philadelphia

by Casey Holdahl
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PHILADELPHIA -- There are plenty of things that the Portland Trail Blazers can be thankful for. They get to play a game for a living, are handsomely compensated for the work and have legions of devoted fans. By an objective measure, it's good to be a Trail Blazer.

But when they sit down to count their blessings, missing their first 13 shots and finding themselves trailing 16-0 before scoring their first points in their 101-81 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Arena won't make the cut.

"I always think our effort is there, I don't think we ever lack effort," said Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. "I think we defended hard, it was just another case of us struggling on the offensive end. We just weren't able to put up points. I think they started off like 16-0 or something or whatever it was. We just couldn't score points."

With the loss, the Trail Blazer are now 10-8 overall and 3-4 on the road this season. Portland has not won a game in Philadelphia since the 2014.

While Wednesday night's loss ran the standard 48 minutes, the contest was functionally over just over six minutes into the night. By time Shabazz Napier finally got Portland on the board with a 13-foot baseline jumper at the 5:01 mark of the first quarter, Philadelphia had already built a 16-point lead. It would be another two and a half minutes before a Trail Blazer other than Napier, in this case, Damian Lillard, would score.

But as bad as they were, Portland still finished the second quarter down by a relatively manageable margin of 26-14.

"We couldn't buy a basket early," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "Missed open shots, missed shots around the basket. The fact that we were able to have a 12-point game at the end of the first quarter was actually kind of a good position to be in after that start."

Not that it would matter all that much. Lillard and Napier would prove to be the only Blazers capable of scoring when the game was still in doubt Wednesday night. The Trail Blazers were able to cut the 76ers lead to nine points on two occasions -- once late in the second quarter after Lillard made three straight three-pointers and again with less than three minutes to play in the third quarter after another Lillard scoring outburst -- but those single-digits deficits never lasted more than a possession or two.

"We cut it to single digits, we had opportunity," said Lillard. "But we couldn't play good enough offensive consistent enough."

Philadelphia would push their lead up to as many as 24 points before eventually coming away with the 20-point victory while holding Portland to their lowest point total this season in the process.

The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who went 11-of-27 from the field and 6-of-13 from three for 30 points to go with three rebounds and two assists in 37 minutes. Napier added 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting while also adding four assists, three rebounds and two steals.

Jusuf Nurkić finished with a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes. No other Blazer scored more than five points.

The 76ers were led by Joel Embiid, who went 11-of-19 from the field for 28 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double of his own. Rookie Ben Simmons came close to a triple-double with 16 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in 39 minutes. T.J. McConnell added 13 points and seven assists while both Dario Saric and JJ Redick finished with 11 points.

Next up, the Trail Blazers head to Brooklyn to face the Nets in a Black Friday matinee at Barclays Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 a.m.