Injuries Mount Up In Loss To 76ers
PORTLAND -- The Portland Trail Blazers started Saturday night's game versus the 76ers extremely short-handed, especially at the power forward and center positions. And it only got worse as the game went on.
Despite entering the game with just 10 healthy players, only one of whom is taller than 6-9, the Trail Blazers were able to build a 21-point lead in the second half versus a 76ers team playing without Joel Embiid (suspension). But Philadelphia outscored Portland by 11 points in the fourth quarter, a rally capped by a go-ahead three-pointer from Furkan Korkmaz with less than a second to play, to hand the Blazers a 129-128 loss in front of a sellout crowd of 19,669 Saturday night at the Moda Center.
“It was tough to lose that one," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "I thought we played a really good game, especially offensively. It was really the first game that our offense really got on track. That was good to see against a good defensive team. But the reality is, the second half, we didn’t do what we needed to do defensively and we had too many turnovers."
The Trail Blazers are now 3-3 overall and 0-2 at home this season. With the win, the 76ers remain undefeated at 5-0.
There was plenty of bad news to go around prior to Saturday's game. Starting center Hassan Whiteside, who suffered a bone bruise in his left knee in Wednesday's victory in Oklahoma City, was downgraded from questionable to out after Portland's shootaround. Then about a half hour before the game, the team announced that Zach Collins would undergo surgery after suffering a dislocated shoulder in Portland's 121-119 victory versus the Mavericks on October 27.
So with Whiteside joining Collins, Pau Gasol (left foot) and Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) as out, Blazers started a front court of of Rodney Hood, Anthony Tolliver and Mario Hezonja, all of whom are listed at 6-8, versus a Sixers team that features four players in their starting lineup taller than 6-9.
But despite their last of size, the Trail Blazers were able to more than make due in the first half Saturday night, thanks in large part to the three-point shot. Behind 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 shooting from three in the first half from Rodney Hood, and along with the team as a whole shooting 10-of-20 from deep in the first two quarter, Portland was able to take a 68-57 lead into the halftime intermission.
The Trail Blazers took their largest lead of the night with just over five minutes to play in the third after Damian Lillard hit his third three of the quarter to give the home team a 93-72 lead, but things would start to going bad from there. Portland would turn the ball over four times after taking the 21-point lead, which helped Philadelphia finish the quarter on a 20-9 run to cut the advantage to 102-92 going into the fourth quarter.
It was around this time in the game that the Sixers seemed to realize they had a size advantage, and started to look to score in the paint. Between Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Ben Simmons, Philadelphia scored 26 of their 37 fourth-quarter points in the paint.
Despite the Sixers rallying, the Blazers were able to make just enough timely shots to retain the lead. Then Hood left the game after a collision with Simmons to reduce the number of available players on Portland's bench to eight. In the next four minutes, the 76ers outscored the Blazers 11-4, taking their first lead of the game at 126-125 with 10.1 seconds to play.
On the next play, Lillard drove the lane, drew three defenders before kicking out to Anfernee Simons in the corner. The second-year guard made the three to take back the lead at 128-126 with 2.6 seconds to play, and it seemed as though the Trail Blazers might escape with the win, even if there were short on upright players left to celebrate it.
"Me and Ant worked out a lot together this summer," said Lillard. "I’ve got a lot of faith in him, I believe in him. He shot the ball well tonight. He was wide open and it was a higher quality shot than I probably would have got forcing it to the rim. He rose up and knocked it down."
But Korkmaz would eventually play the part of hero, hitting a three off a Simmons assists with 0.4 seconds to play to take the lead right back.
“Dame got hit by a screen and (Korkmaz) hit a good shot," said Stotts. "I thought Dame recovered and challenged it well, but he made a good shot."
Portland had a timeout remaining and was able to advance to ball to half court, but it ultimately didn't matter. Lillard's desperation attempt came after the buzzer, and missed the mark even if it hadn't.
"We played such a great game and they just chipped away and got back into it," said Lillard. "We let one slip. I think the way we lost sucks. Any time somebody hits a last second shot, put you up against the clock, it’s a bad feeling especially knowing you had such a huge lead and played such a great game."
Damian Lillard led all scorers with 33 points on 11-of-16 shooting from the field and 8-of-11 shooting from three to go with nine assists, five rebounds and two steals. Rodney Hood had arguably his best regular-season game as a Trail Blazer, going 9-of-11 from the field and 4-of-6 from three for 25 points before being helped off the court with a left knee injury in the fourth quarter.
"It was knee to knee, said Hood of the injury. "I saw the replay, he kind of stuck his knee out a little bit. It’s just, I couldn’t put no pressure on it so I had to come out."
CJ McCollum finished with 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting. Skal Labissiere went 7-of-9 for 15 points to how with four rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes. Anfernee Simons scored 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting and Mario Hezonja added 11 points, 12 rebounded, four assists and two steals in his first start as a Trail Blazer.
Al Horford led the Sixers with 25 points. Tobias Harris finished with 23 points and Ben Simmons came without shouting distance of a triple-double with 18 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in 36 minutes.
• Portland had a season-high 19 three-pointers made (of 35), while the Nuggets made 11 (of 33). It was the seventh time in franchise history that the Trail Blazers have had at least 19 three-pointers. The franchise record is 21 (twice, last 1/2/14 vs. Charlotte).
• Portland shot 45-of-79 (56.9%) from the field, outshooting Philadelphia who was 54-of-107 (50.6%) from the field.
• The Trail Blazers had six players score in double figures. It was the most players they have had score in double figures this season.
• The Trail Blazers shot a season-high 54.3% from the three-point-line.
• Philadelphia’s bench outscored Portland’s, 43-35. Portland’s 35 points from the bench unit was a season high.
"We’ll have to make do with the guys that we have. I’m disappointed for Zach (Collins). It’s tough for a young player to have to have surgery and miss a significant part of the season. It’s in his best interest." -- Terry Stotts
After a quick stop at home, the Trail Blazers head back out on the road for two games in California starting with a tilt versus another woefully injured team, the Golden State Warriors, Monday night in San Francisco. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.