PORTLAND – One of the many things that Sixers coach Doug Collins has been telling his team since he arrived in Philadelphia is to value every possession at all times.
In their season-opener at Portland on Monday night they did just the opposite, committing 20 turnovers leading to 28 points in dropping their season-opener to the Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden, 107-103.
"It was turnovers, that was the difference," Collins said matter-of-factly as he stood outside the Sixers dressing room. "Before the game I told you that the key to this game was going to be turnovers and offensive rebounding."
As far as the offensive rebounds were concerned, the Blazers got them (17) and the Sixers didn't (9).
But the bigger issue here was the Sixers' start. Playing in front of the 160th consecutive sellout in the Rose Garden, the Sixers, whose only lead was 2-0, fell behind 10-2 at the start and never led again.
They fell behind 26-15 at the end of the first quarter and then they settled in. Perhaps it was nerves over playing the first game since the lockout shut down the NBA, but the Sixers outscored the Blazers 88-81 over the final three quarters of the game.
After making just 6 of 19 baskets in the first quarter the Sixers shot 55.6 percent in the second half.
"The thing I was worried about as much as anything is how precise we were going to be," Collins said. "We made mistakes that we don't normally make. But they play very physically. They get into your body; they take you off your cuts and try to run you out of your plays. Our bench came in and gave us a chance to win, but we just dug ourselves a big hole."
The Blazers held off every attempt by the Sixers to come back, especially in the fourth quarter when the Sixers, led by reserve guard Lou Williams' team-high 25 points, made a furious rally.
Down by 16 points after Portland's Wes Matthews sank the second of two free throws with 6:01 left, the Sixers used back-to-back 3-pointers from Williams to pull to within 105-103 with 22.5 seconds to play. They just couldn't get over the hump.
"During the fourth quarter we got our flow going; we got some stops," said forward Elton Brand, struggled early on and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. "It was just a few shots they hit from our turnovers and missed opportunities that made the difference."
The Sixers wasted a big outing from center Spencer Hawes. After a strong preseason, Hawes opened the season with 14 rebound, 10 points and nine and a game-high nine assists. Andre Iguodala finished with 22 points and eight rebounds. Jrue Holiday had 13 points and just two assists while committing six turnovers, and Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner each finished with 10 points.
LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 25 points but needed 25 shots to get there. Gerald Wallace had 21 points and nine rebounds, Matthews had 16 points and Raymond Felton finished with 12 points and eight assists.