Trail Blazers Finish 2018 By Routing 76ers

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

PORTLAND -- If the end of 2018 is a harbinger of things to come in 2019, then the start of the new year is shaping up real nicely for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Despite playing their fourth game in seven days and the second of a home-and-home back-to-back, the Trail Blazers beat the Philadelphia 76ers 129-95 in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 Sunday night at the Moda Center.

“It was good to get a win like that," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "I was pleased everybody got a chance to play. I was really proud of the way we played the first half at both ends. We didn’t let the fact that we were playing good offense take away from our defense. I thought the effort was really consistent throughout the first half to build and be able to sustain the lead."

With the victory, the Trail Blazers are 21-16 overall, 13-7 at the Moda Center this season and 6-3 in their last nine games. The Blazers have now bested the 76ers in five straight games at home. Between the second half of the 2017-18 season and the first half of the 2018-19 season, the Trail Blazers finish the calendar year with a 52-32 record.

Considering the Trail Blazers were playing their second game in less than 24 hours and the 76ers had three days off prior to Sunday’s contest, one would assume that the road side would come in with more energy and sharper execution. And for the first few minutes, that looked to be the case, with the Sixers taking an early six-point lead against a somewhat listless Trail Blazers squad.

But behind the play of recently-slumping CJ McCollum, the Trail Blazers went on a 20-3 run spanning from the 8:37 mark of the first quarter to the 1 minute mark, resulting in a 27-16 lead for the home team. That run was helped by the Trail Blazers holding the Sixers without a point for over four minutes.

"I thought we did a great job," said Evan Turner of Portland's defense Sunday night. "I thought we communicated. Obviously they’re missing Embiid, but I thought with the rest of them, we did a great job communicating and most importantly, allowing one shot. I thought that’s usually where people get in trouble at, we typically get in trouble is more than one shot. So once they missed, we were able to get out, get in transition and turn it into a plus.”

Evn with Embiid sitting out with a left knee injury, it would take more than one first-quarter run to stop a Sixers team with the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference. But two second-quarter runs? That would be enough.

Between the end of the first quarter and the start of the season, Portland went on a 14-0 run to take a 43-20 lead after a McCollum three with 9:18 to play in the first half.

"I think early in the game I saw that (McCollum) was making shots, it was going for him so we had a pretty good defensive effort going as well as a group, and keep feeding him," said Damian Lillard. "You know when he gets in one of those grooves, it could be one of those nights you could ride it out and I thought we did that."

After holding a substantial lead for most of the second quarter, Portland all but put the game away by finishing the first half on a 11-0 run to take a 70-41 advantage into the intermission.

For the entirety of the second half, it wasn’t a question of whether the Trail Blazers would win, but by how much. Philadelphia never got closer than 25 points, even with both coaches turning the game over to the ends of their respective benches for early in the fourth quarter.

"I think getting ready to go on the road against a tough Sacramento team who’s going to play a really fast pace, it worked out perfect for us," said Lillard. "You get a home win, you play well, get some guys playing well, CJ had a big night and then you get to rest before the track meet. So it was good that we handled our business and was able to sit for the end of the game."

TOP PERFORMERS

CJ McCollum led all scorers with 35 points on 13-of-18 shooting from the field, 4-of-7 shooting from three and 5-of-5 shooting from the line. McCollum scored 15 of his 35 points in the first quarter to get Portland off to a fast start in the second game of a back-to-back. He also tallied three rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes.

Al-Farouq Aminu went 5-of-6 from the field to finish with 16 points, eight rebounds ands two assists in 22 minutes. Damian Lillard added 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 27 minutes.

Jusuf Nurkić continued his strong play as of late, especially with Joel Embiid sitting out Sunday’s contest. The “Bosnian Beast” went 7-of-11 from the field for 14 points to go with seven rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes.

"He’s been more effective in the paint, more effective finishing," said Stotts of Nurkic. "He’s finished – I think tonight he finished three baskets with his left hand. We’ve been working with him on that, our assistants have been working with him on that."

Philadelphia had five players finish in double figures behind 19 points from Ben Simmons.

LISTEN UP

NOTABLE

• Portland’s 34-point win marked the Trail Blazers largest margin of victory of the season (30, Nov. 4 vs. Minnesota). It was Portland’s largest win since beating Phoenix by 48 points on Oct. 18, 2017.

• The Trail Blazers scored 70 points in the first half, matching their highest-scoring first half of the season (Nov. 1 vs. NOP). Portland’s 39 points in the second quarter were a season high for the second quarter (37, Dec. 23 vs. Dallas).

• With 129 points, the Trail Blazers had their third-highest scoring game of the season (132, Nov. 1 vs. New Orleans).

• Portland outrebounded Philadelphia, 59-36. It was the Trail Blazers second-highest re-bounding differential of the season (28, Nov. 4 vs. Min.).

• The Trail Blazers shot a season-high 59.0% from the field (49-of-83) and a season-high 54.5% from the three-point line (12-of-22). The 49 made field goals matched Portland’s sea-son high (Dec. 23 vs. Dallas).

• Portland had 28 assists on their 49 made field goals. Philadelphia assisted on 18 of their 34 field goals.

• The Trail Blazers outscored the 76ers in the paint, 62-30.

QUOTABLE

"Defense. I liked him on (Jimmy) Butler, so that was the main reason." -- Terry Stotts on the decision to start Evan Turner in place of Moe Harkless (left knee)

NEXT UP

With 2018 official in the books, the Trail Blazers start their 2019 by visiting Sacramento to face the Kings for the first time this season on New Year’s Day. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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