The undermanned Philadelphia 76ers faced an uphill climb when they paid a visit to the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday looking to get on the board on their current 5-game road trip. The Sixers had dropped the first two games of the trip and were looking for a win against the struggling Blazers.
That didn’t happen. The Sixers were missing Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, De’Anthony Melton, and Robert Covington against the Blazers, but they did welcome Tobias Harris and Mo Bamba back to the lineup. Facing a Portland team that entered the contest with a 13-33 record, this was an opportunity for the Sixers to get back on track, but they fell 130-104.
The Sixers led the Blazers by eight after the first quarter as their defensive effort was excellent, but somewhere in the second quarter, things fell apart on that end of the floor as Portland pulled away.
“We just really lost our focus, I think defensively first and foremost,” coach Nick Nurse told reporters after the loss. “We really had a good start to the game. First quarter defensively was excellent. Pretty much through the second quarter, too, till about four minutes to go, and they went on a big run.”
Without Embiid back there protecting the rim, the Blazers just walked to the rim. They had 62 points in the paint overall, 22 coming in the second quarter, and 18 in the third quarter.
“A lot of stuff at the rim and some dunks and things like that and we just never really got back to guarding the ball with enough just containment,” Nurse continued. “Then, when that happened, we weren’t helping the guy who was beat either. We just lost our defensive focus. It started on the ball and then it just chain reaction from there.”
The game was almost similar to the loss to the Denver Nuggets. The short-handed Sixers also gave a great effort in that one before they fell apart in the fourth quarter. The only difference against the Blazers was that it happened much earlier. That is where the disappointment comes in.
“Of course,” Nurse stated of his disappointment level. “It seemed like we were in—again, like we started, we were ready. We were executing things. Things were going very well. Very similar to the other night and then things got a little shaky and we seemed to not have great composure.”
On top of the defensive struggles, the Sixers shot just 44.6% from the floor and 5-for-29 from deep on the night. Portland shot 54.8% from the floor and 12-for-28 from deep. It was just an uphill climb for the Sixers.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Nurse finished. “We couldn’t answer back and then that started deflating us even more, I think, because we had a bunch of really, really good looks and didn’t make any of them, but we gotta continue to fight and guard to stay in the game. We just didn’t do that tonight.”
The Sixers continue the road trip on Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors.