Trail Blazers vs Sixers Saturday, 12/29/12 AT 07:00PM

Trail Blazers Welcome Sixers For First Time

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0


    After falling to an opponent that put things into an extra gear on Friday, the Trail Blazers (14-14) now return to the friendly confines of the Rose Garden before going on the road for four games. Tonight, they face the young Philadelphia 76ers (14-16), coming off a tough loss of their own last night in Golden State. The game will start at 7PM at the Rose Garden and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

    •    Last night the Trail Blazers were dominated on both ends by a veteran opponent. Tonight, against a youthful yet experienced Philadelphia group, defense must again be the emphasis. The Trail Blazers allowed 34 points in the first quarter against the Lakers and cannot allow something even close to that for Philadelphia. Their offense (20th in the NBA) is nothing to write home about, but they do have some playmakers like Jrue Holliday and good shooters like Dorrell Wright than can make you pay. Their defense (15th in the NBA) is what carries them. The Sixers are exceptional at taking care of the ball as they are second in the league in turnover rate, however they are pretty much middle of the road in everything else offensively. They struggle mightily getting to the line as they don't have that type of star player that puts pressure on the defense and gets to the foul line.
    •    As is almost every game, Damian Lillard's match-up is what will get the attention. Jrue Holliday has been quietly having a fantastic, all-star level season for the Sixers, averaging over 18 points and 8.9 points. Holliday has been thrusted into a more featured role in the Philly offense with the departure of Andre Iguoudala and the injury troubles for Andrew Bynum. After drawing Steve Nash on defense last night, Lillard will face Holliday tonight. Lillard will also want to atone for a bad shooting night last night. Obviously, he is never one to change his approach to the game but the numbers suggest he won't go four of 17 again. It will be interesting to see, however, how the Sixers guard Lillard after seeing how the Lakers employed full court attention to the rookie. Stotts didn't use the type of defense as an excuse for Lillard's rough statistical night but it did change Lillard's role in the offense a little bit more as he was not easily allowed to touch the ball. Lillard is seventh among Western Conference guards in scoring (leads all rookies), averaging 18.3 points per game.
    •    Now that it has been over the course of a long stretch of games, it's now okay to say that Batum has started to become more of a point-forward for the Trail Blazers. Over the course of the year we have seen him evolve as Stotts has given him ultimate freedom on the offensive end.  Early in the season he showed his ability as a catch and shoot player as he dropped 35 points twice and he also showed his ability to hit the big shot by hitting a game-winning three against the Cavaliers. Now, he is evolving into a quality pick and roll player in addition to his shooting ability coming off screens. Stotts has talked about how he wants him to do everything and he is doing just that on offense. Batum is averaging over 7.1 assists per game over the last seven games along with over 14.5 points and 5 rebounds. With more assists, comes more turnovers and that has been a problem for Batum as of late but it hasn't really taken away from his overall efficiency in the pick and roll. According to Synergy Sports Technology, he is in the 84th percentile in such plays averaging .939 points per possession. His turnover percentage on those plays is much higher than you'd like but the fact he can shoot a three if someone goes under the screen but he can also find an open man or get to the hoop makes up for those occasional mistakes. Through 28 games, Batum has already run more pick and rolls this year than he did all season last year and with the extra opportunities, Batum has delivered. As teams continue to key in on Lillard, having another playmaker becomes even more important.
    •    Will Barton has been a breath of fresh air off the bench in the last two games. "The Thrill" has scored over double-digits in the last two games and has been active on the defensive end and productive offensively, which is big while the Trail Blazers await the return of Wesley Matthews.  Hopefully for Portland, he can continue riding that momentum. The Sixers have some scoring power off the bench in Nick "Swaggy P" Young and Spencer Hawes so the Trail Blazers will need to find some points on the bench again. Without Bynum, the Sixers don't have a dominant scorer inside and Doug Collins isn't afraid to go small, using three guards on the perimeter much of the time. So, against a guard heavy team, odds are that Stotts will continue to give Barton run. Plus the fun potential in a Nick Young-Will Barton match-up is too much to not want to see just a bit of it.

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