By Peter Gleason
If you want to know the difference between a young and inexperienced team like the Sixers and a savvy one like the Blazers, last night’s game in Portland is a prime example:
Shabazz Napier, who started for injured guard Damian Lillard, scored 15 of his season-high 23 points in the fourth quarter and the Blazers rallied for a 114-110 victory.
CJ McCollum led all scorers with 34 for the Blazers, who snapped a six-game losing streak at home. Portland had a season-high 42 points in the fourth quarter.
The Sixers, who led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, have lost 10 of their last 12 games.
Joel Embiid finished with 29 points and nine rebounds, while Dario Saric had 25 points and nine rebounds.
Napier’s layup pulled the Blazers within 88-87 with 7:56 left and McCollum made free throws to give Portland the lead. The Blazers stretched it to 93-88 on Jusuf Nurkic’s tip-in.
JJ Redick and Embiid made consecutive 3-pointers for Philly to narrow the gap to 103-99 with 2:06 left. Nurkic had a pair of free throws before McCollum’s pull-up jumper and it appeared the game was out of reach, but Embiid made another 3 that got the Sixers within 109-105 with 16 seconds left.
McCollum made free throws with 3.4 seconds to go before Embiid added another 3-pointer to make it 111-108, but the Sixers weren’t able to catch up.
Nurkic finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Portland won its fourth straight against the Sixers at the Moda Center. Napier scored 22 points after halftime.
Embiid was questionable for the game with back tightness, but played. The 76ers were coming off a 105-98 victory over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Christmas that snapped a five-game losing streak.
Nurkic made a layup with nine seconds left to give Portland a 52-51 lead at halftime. But he was furious in the third quarter when officials did not stop the game when he had a bloody nose. He collected his fourth foul before heading for the locker room.
Nurkic knocked heads with Redick, who appeared to have a cut lip.
The Sixers stretched the lead to 75-59 with five minutes left in the quarter, outscoring Portland 24-7. But Ed Davis capped a 10-1 Portland run with a dunk to pull the Blazers to 79-70.