What went wrong before and during their season opening game Monday night against the Portland Trail Blazers? What went right, if anything, for the Sixers?
For starters, at least the team’s plane made it safely and to the correct airport in Oregon. After that, it seemed like the Sixers started turning the ball over as soon as they stepped off the jet.
For sure, I understand that it's often very difficult to travel across the country and beat another NBA team. In this case, however, both teams were relatively fresh in playing their first game of the season.
On opening night at the Rose Garden, though to say Philly’s starting backcourt was nervous and prickly is a surety. Philadelphia’s first shot of the game didn’t look or smell so sweet.
The jumper was a rose to be called by another name, a brick, after Jodie Meeks’ corner three struck the side of the backboard. Meeks didn't make a field goal in the game.
Further, by game’s end, his teammates had helped fumble the ball away for 20 turnovers, and Portland took advantage.
Jrue Holiday, for instance, finished the game with six disadvantageous turnovers and only two assists. At one point, the young floor general was substituted for by Evan Turner after Holiday coughed the ball up near Collins.
For awhile, Turner looked like the best ball-handler the Sixers could rely on in the opener. Thankfully for Philly, “Sweet Lou” Williams and Andre Iguodala began carving their own openings through Portland’s tough defense.
“Sweet Lou” came off the bench and ended up leading the Sixers in scoring with 25 points. He started his minutes by doing it big off cuts to the rim. Then, an incredible scoop shot over Chris Johnson in the lane seemed to really get him going.
That was early in the second quarter. Williams followed it up with a sweet between the legs crossover dribble to get to the rim and get fouled.
It was apparent that the bench was more than capable of stepping up and having their teammates’ backs.
Welcome back, Thaddeus Young. Thad’s outside shot is a little suspect, and he would rather get to the rim, but he was a force in the lane. He finished with 10 points and eight rebounds—two on the offensive glass—but zero assists.
Speaking of rebounds, points and assists, Andre Iguodala was second in the NBA last year in triple doubles. He got the squad off to a jump start with a nice jumper from 20 feet.
Iggy had seven of Philly’s first 13 points. Down by seven points, 20-13, he banked in an ugly-looking three-pointer. Then, he got to the foul line after an outlet by Elton Brand got the break going.
Andre made both free throws and set the tone for the team from out of town. The Sixers would keep turning it over all game, but keep cutting into the lead at the same time.
At one point, the Sixers had posted a 3-for-11 shooting night, while Portland was 7-for-19. The field goal percentage, however, went up dramatically for both teams by halftime.
The score was 48-44, Portland. While it was, meanwhile, suspected by me that the Sixers had no defense against LaMarcus Aldridge, the game was still close.
On the plus side, Spencer Hawes was in firm control of the defensive boards during the first two quarters.
Starting the second half, Meeks was pulled for Turner at about the 8:30 mark in the third. Meeks was shooting blanks and Holiday was still shaky, but Turner looked confident.
Collins seemed to have more confidence in him than he did in Holiday when it came to floor generalship against Portland. Maybe it was because of Turner’s awesome one-on-one take off the dribble against Gerald Wallace in the first half.
In any case, Holiday had too many turnovers and Turner looked more comfortable handling the ball. Behind the second unit, Philly fought back time after time.
My suspicions, though, were confirmed about the no defense against Aldridge theory. No doubt Young struggles when he guards the larger power forwards. Behind Aldridge, the score was 77-72 after three.
But, Philadelphia actually outscored Portland in the fourth quarter, 31-30. However, the Sixers had gotten down early, 26-15, after a sloppy first quarter.
Philly had also outscored Portland, 29-22, in the second stanza. Both teams scored 59 points in the second half.
So, this game was a tale of two halves and three quarters. The Sixers were right for the final three, but they were wrong for the first one.
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