The Portland Trail Blazers did not want to go into a long break with a four-game losing streak, so they pulled out a 95-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday to snap the slide. Finally back in action on Thursday, the Trail Blazers will host another team hoping one win can change its fortunes in the Philadelphia 76ers.
Portland failed to reach 100 points for the fifth time in the last six games on Saturday but did enough on the defensive end to thwart the Lakers and move back above .500 heading into their lengthy break. The Trail Blazers played their last two games without star point guard Damian Lillard (hamstring), who remains day-to-day, but got 21 points out of point guard Shabazz Napier in the spot start and held Los Angeles to 43 points in the second half. The 76ers dropped five straight and nine of 10 before stepping up on a national stage and earning a 105-98 win over the New York Knicks on Christmas Day. “We were on a losing streak,” Philadelphia shooting guard JJ Redick told reporters. “We realized we are at a breaking point in the season. We had to play with more urgency. Today, our energy was at a different level.”
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE 76ERS (15-18): Philadelphia center Joel Embiid missed three games with a back injury and looked rusty in a loss at Toronto on Saturday before collecting 25 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks in the win over the Knicks. Redick, who is no stranger to the Christmas Day showcase after spending the previous four seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, added 24 points in the win after taking the previous two games off to rest a sore hamstring. “I love our guys, they fight,” 76ers coach Brett Brown told reporters. “But you bring in (Embiid) and JJ, and the fight goes to a higher level, and gives us more of a chance. Fans see it, and our team sees it.”
ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (17-16): Portland forward Maurice Harkless was battling a quad injury and found himself out of the rotation while missing six of seven games, but he earned back his spot Saturday. The 24-year-old posted a season-high 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting in 25 minutes off the bench. “When it’s time to win I’ve got to do whatever I’ve got to do to win and (Saturday) it was score,” Harkless told reporters. “We just had to figure out how to get something going and I had an advantage a lot of times in the post and I just knocked down a couple shots. My teammates did a great job finding me when I had an advantage or when I was open. All I had to do what knock down shots.”
1. Trail Blazers SG CJ McCollum is 3-of-18 from 3-point range over his last three games.
2. 76ers PG T.J. McConnell matched a season high with 15 points on Monday.
3. Embiid scored 28 points in a 101-81 home win over Portland on Nov. 22.
PREDICTION: 76ers 103, Trail Blazers 95