Sixers hit tough stretch of their trip
Now, here comes the hard part of the road trip. The 76ers are feeling good about themselves after disposing of the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic in their last two games. That's understandable, considering victories have been hard to come by for the 4-23 team.
Now, here comes the hard part of the road trip.
The 76ers are feeling good about themselves after disposing of the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic in their last two games. That's understandable, considering victories have been hard to come by for the 4-23 team.
But the remaining five games on the road will show just how much the Sixers have improved since the start of the season.
They will open the West Coast portion of the trip against the Portland Trail Blazers at 10 p.m. Friday at the Moda Center. Then they will visit the Utah Jazz (Saturday), Golden State Warriors (Tuesday), Phoenix Suns (next Friday), and Los Angeles Clippers (Jan. 3).
The Warriors had the league's best record (23-4) heading into Thursday night's game at the Clippers, who were 19-10. The Blazers (23-7) are the NBA's second-best team. The Suns (16-14) and Clippers would be playoff teams if the regular season ended Thursday.
The Sixers won't get a breather against the Jazz (9-20). Utah is coming off an impressive victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. The Jazz also defeated the San Antonio Spurs earlier this month.
If you factor in common opponents, the Jazz beat the Magic and Heat by a combined 25 points. The Sixers defeated the Florida squads by a combined 12.
However, Friday night's matchup with the Blazers will get interesting.
The Sixers have won eight of their last 14 games in Portland, including last season's 101-99 decision. But Michael Carter-Williams, Hollis Thompson, and Tony Wroten are the only returning Sixers who played in that game.
The Blazers have NBA all-stars in point guard Damian Lillard and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge averaged 27.3 points and 13.7 rebounds over his last three games. He is also the league's only player ranked in the top 10 in both points (22.9 per game) and rebounds (10.6). The 6-foot-11, 240-pounder has a team-high 16 double-doubles.
Lillard is ranked in the top 10 in the league in scoring (21.9) and three-pointers (82).
As a team, Portland led the NBA in rebounding (46.5 per game) and was sixth in scoring (103.8), sixth in three-pointers made (9.6), and seventh in three-point percentage (37.3) heading into Thursday's games.