Thad Young helps lead the Sixers to their third straight win
The Sixers (11-21) will cap off their six-game road trip with their toughest challenge yet when they face the Portland Trail Blazers (26-7) on Saturday night.
Tipoff is set for 10 p.m. (TCN) at the Moda Center.
Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:
1. Finish strong
After a pair of double-digit losses in Milwaukee and Phoenix to start their six-game swing, the Sixers have turned things around away from home. They beat the Lakers last Sunday to snap a 13-game road losing skid on their way to winning three in a row.
The Sixers have regained their offensive rhythm during the three straight wins and their much-maligned defense has shown signs of improvement.
The Sixers will attempt to win four consecutive games for the first time all season against the Blazers. That’s certainly a tall task against the Western Conference’s best team, but the Sixers won’t be lacking motivation after suffering an embarrassing 34-point loss to Portland on Dec. 14.
2. Triple threat
Speaking of that blowout loss to the Blazers, the game plan for the Sixers hasn’t changed from that night: Defend the three-point line.
Portland hit a franchise-record 21 three-pointers against the Sixers in that game. The Blazers haven’t cooled off any since, tying that mark in Thursday’s 134-104 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats to become the first team in NBA history with at least 20 threes in two games during the same season.
The Blazers are first in the NBA in three-point percentage this season at 40.5 and threes made per game at 10.6. If they continue at the pace, the Blazers would become the first team in NBA history to average at least 10 made threes a game while shooting at least 40 percent from deep.
The Sixers’ ability to defend the arc has improved lately, holding teams to 28.0 percent over the last five games. However, their 10.3 threes allowed per game is still worst in the league.
3. Taking his act on the road
Thaddeus Young might not want to come back to Philadelphia after playing some of the best basketball of his career during this road trip.
Young has averaged 26.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game during the Sixers’ road swing. He has also drained 10 of 22 three-pointers during that span to continue his career season from beyond the arc and combine with Spencer Hawes to form one of the league’s best duos from long range (see story).
“What he is doing is playing with a high level of confidence first and then supported by his skill package that is getting better,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said of Young. “You just can’t say enough about his game over the past five, six-game stretch.”
The Sixers will need Young to continue that offensive production in Portland and provide some solid defense on LaMarcus Aldridge if they hope to escape with a win.
Nerlens Noel (knee), Arnett Moultrie (ankle) and Jason Richardson (knee) are all out.
Blazers guard and Lehigh product C.J. McCollum (foot) began a two-game D-League stint on Friday by scoring 13 points, grabbing six rebounds and handing out six assists for the Idaho Stampede. He is expected to make his NBA debut on Jan. 7 against Sacramento.
5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost four of their last five games against the Blazers.
• Portland is 12-1 against Eastern Conference teams this season.
• The Blazers have made a league-high 349 three-pointers this season and at least eight threes in eight straight games.
• Young is shooting 61.5 percent in his last three games against the Blazers.
• Portland point guard Damian Lillard has shot 40 of 72 (55.5 percent) from three-point range over the last eight games.
• Evan Turner has averaged 4.3 points and shot 27.9 percent in six career games against the Blazers.