3 observations after Sixers suffer blowout loss without stars in Portland

3 observations after Sixers suffer blowout loss without stars in Portland originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Down two stars again, the Sixers had another frigid shooting night Monday and suffered a third consecutive defeat.

The Trail Blazers blew them out at Moda Center, cruising to a 130-104 win and improving to 14-33 this season.

Jerami Grant scored 27 points. Malcolm Brogdon had 24 points and nine assists.

The Sixers fell to 29-16. Kelly Oubre Jr. was their leading scorer with 25 points.

Joel Embiid (left knee soreness), Tyrese Maxey (left ankle sprain), De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine stress response) and Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise) were still out. Tobias Harris came back from an illness and posted nine points on 3-for-9 shooting and four rebounds in 20 minutes.

The Sixers will play the Warriors on Tuesday night and then end their five-game road trip Thursday against the Jazz.

Here are observations on their loss in Portland:

Offense late to the party

Neither the Sixers nor the Blazers exceeded expectations in terms of early offensive sharpness.

Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, Portland entered with the NBA’s lowest offensive rating. The Blazers didn’t make a three-point shot until the 9:40 mark of the second quarter. Young guards Anfernee Simons and Scoot Henderson both fell into foul trouble. Nicolas Batum began on Simons and did his usual good work preventing a smaller ball handler from easing into a smooth, confidence-building start.

The Sixers’ offense was also far from splendid without Maxey and Embiid. Harris clearly wasn’t back to full health and missed a few close-range attempts. No Sixer found any sort of perimeter scoring rhythm.

On a positive note, Patrick Beverley and Oubre were productive early inside of the arc, driving aggressively and finishing well through contact. Beverley’s craftiness — patent pivots, old-school push and hook shots, smart shifts in pace — again stood out in a higher-usage role. The Sixers closed the first quarter on a 12-2 run to take a 28-20 edge.

Blazers better across the board  

Mo Bamba, who’d been sidelined by a right knee injury, played for the first time since Jan. 12. Though Bamba picked up two fouls in his first run, he had a strong sequence when he blocked Henderson at the rim and then slammed home a Beverley lob on the ensuing possession.

Coming off of his career-high 30-point outing Saturday against the Nuggets, Paul Reed’s level dipped. Reed flashed a variety of skills and chipped in 11 points, six rebounds and three assists, but he was loose at times defensively and the Sixers conceded too much inside. Bamba’s presence and stints of zone defense didn’t upgrade their rim protection. After averaging a league-worst 44.7 points in the paint over their first 46 games, the Blazers scored 62 Monday.

While Harris and Bamba gave the Sixers more manpower than they’d had in Denver, backup guard play was still certainly not a strength. Furkan Korkmaz received point guard minutes in the first quarter and missed two three-point shots, including an audacious long one.

Meanwhile, Grant reached 20 points by halftime and the Blazers grabbed a three-point lead at intermission.

Abysmal, insurmountable shooting

The Sixers struggled badly on both ends of the floor late in the second quarter.

The most glaring problem was their failure to convert anything from long range. Following a 5-for-29 performance, the Sixers have shot 22.4 percent from three-point territory over their last five games. Very hard for any team to win with that kind of shooting.

Plenty went wrong for the Sixers besides heaps of off-target jumpers, too.

Reed and Oubre both rose for a defensive rebound in the third quarter and crashed into each other, allowing the Blazers to snag the loose ball and Jabari Walker to score a second-chance layup. Harris had an iso chance against Simons later in the third but passed to Bamba. The big man appeared oblivious to the shot clock and the 24 seconds expired.

With 9:06 left in the fourth quarter and the Sixers down 21, Sixers head coach Nick Nurse called timeout and subbed in rookies Terquavion Smith and Ricky Council IV.

Smith and Jaden Springer made garbage-time threes to boost the final long-distance numbers, but the team's 17.2 percentage was its worst in a game since March 5, 2022.