Instant Replay: Sixers 101, Trail Blazers 100

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Instant Replay: Sixers 101, Trail Blazers 100

BOX SCORE

The Sixers were able to lock down on defense in the final seconds Monday night against Portland to claim a 101-100 win over the Trail Blazers.

The Sixers finished their homestand with a 3-1 record and improved their record to 26-40.

They will now head West on a four-game swing.

Turning point
The Trail Blazers made six of their 12 threes on the night in the fourth quarter, allowing them to close within one point with 7.1 seconds remaining.

After a Sixers’ turnover, Portland went to LaMarcus Aldridge for the final shot. Spencer Hawes held his ground with a hand in Aldridge’s face and forced a missed shot.

Follow the leader
Jrue Holiday led the Sixers with 27 points to go with his seven rebounds and five assists. Hawes had his 13th double-double of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Thaddeus Young added 19 points.

Aldridge scored 16 of his game-high 32 points in the first quarter when he was 7 for 9 from the floor. He also pulled down 14 rebounds.

Rookie sensation Damian Lillard added another 24 points. Lillard and Aldridge were the only Trail Blazers to score in double figures.

Stat-egic
The Sixers continued to share the ball. They had 31 assists to bring their total during the four-game homestand to 119.

Take a bow
Dorell Wright was in the lineup along with Damien Wilkins to close out this game. Both players have been a shot in the arm for the Sixers on this homestand.

Wright finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots.

Wilkins was 6 for 8 from the floor for 12 points. He also had six assists.

What’s next?
The Sixers now head into “Lob City,” as they face off against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. The Clippers handed the Sixers a 107-90 defeat back on Feb. 11.

The Clippers are currently the third seed out West with a 46-21 record. Blake Griffin leads them in scoring with 18.6 points per game. Chris Paul averages 16.6 points and 9.6 assists a night.

The Clippers score the eighth-most points in the league at 100.8 per game. They also allow the fourth-fewest points per game at 94.2.

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”