Originally written December 29, 2012 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
Home sweet home The Portland Trail Blazers play host to the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night, but following the contest at the Rose Garden, the team will take off for a four-game road trip. Matchup: Portland (14-14) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (14-16) Venue: Rose Garden Arena Time: 7:00 PM PT Date: Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 The 76ers have underperformed this season, but they’re a good young team that can challenge anybody on any given night. The Portland Trail Blazers are set to host the Philadelphia 76ers. (Photo: Bruce Ely/The Oregonian) Game Notes/How They Match Up This game is going to come down to one key matchup: Portland’s offense vs. Philadelphia’s defense. The Blazers, while they’ve certainly had off nights shooting the ball, have relied on their offense to win them games this year. They don’t have a defense strong enough to make up for missed shots, so putting the ball in the basket at a high percentage is key in any game moving forward. Philly, on the other hand, has made their mark with defense. Like Portland, they’ve had their share of off nights defensively, as evidenced by their sub-.500 record. But with their offense only producing 93.6 points per game, it’s their ability to keep their opponents from scoring that has been the upside this season. In a battle of offense versus defense, something has to give, and if you’re Portland, you hope you can get off to a fast start. What to Watch: Portland The Trail Blazers struggled all over the board against the Los Angeles Lakers, but one place where they must adjust for Saturday’s game is defending the paint. Philadelhpia doesn’t have Dwight Howard doing damage down low—heck, they don’t even have Andrew Bynum—but they are a team that can get to the rim and challenge opposing defenses. They are fourth in the league in points in the paint, and they ‘re much more of a slash-to-the-rim kind of team than a back-down group. Despite being undersized, Portland has to clog the middle against the Sixers. If they don’t, or if they allow too many backdoor cuts, it’s going to be a long game with Philly getting easy looks. What to Watch: Philadelphia Like the Trail Blazers, Philadelphia is playing its second of a back-to-back Saturday at the Rose Garden. Also like Portland, they were down big in the third quarter and ended up losing their Friday-night matchup. However, unlike the Blazers—who pulled their starters early and conceded a loss—the Sixers did everything they could to rally late. For those who watched the game, the near comeback was exciting. They went from down 20 in the third quarter to being within four points late, but it just wasn’t enough to make up the difference, as they lost 96-89 to the Golden State Warriors. Damian Lillard will face off against Jrue Holiday Saturday night. Photo: Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian Philly ran their starters hard, and you have to wonder if they’ll have the legs in another close contest. Key Matchup With Andre Iguodala gone and Andrew Bynum injured, Jrue Holiday has taken over the role of star player on offense. He is averaging 18.1 points and 8.8 assists per game, and he is the closest thing they have to a No. 1 option. Holiday is an improved defender, but he’ll be much more of what Damian Lillard is used to seeing than what he faced against L.A. In the Lakers game Friday night, Damian Lillard was defended by Darius Morris and Kobe Bryant throughout the game. Los Angeles wanted Steve Nash to stay as far away from him as possible, and as a result, he had one of his worst offensive performances of his young career. Against Holiday, he’ll have a chance to get back to business. The two point guards have size and speed to challenge one another, and they can both have an impact both shooting and passing the ball. Injury Report Portland: DAY-TO-DAY—Sasha Pavlovic, LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews Philadelphia: DAY-TO-DAY—Jason Richardson Prediction The Blazers played an ugly game against the Lakers, and they need a bounce-back performance before hitting the road. Blazers 96 – Philadelphia 93 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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