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Blazers: Live by the 3, die by the 3

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: MEG WILLIAMS - Trail Blazers Wesley Matthews (right) and Damian Lillard show some frustration near the end of Saturday's loss to Philadelphia.Wesley Matthews' face wore a determined look as he exchanged fist bumps with Nicolas Batum in a solemn Trail Blazers locker room Saturday night.

"We're going to burn the nets down in Sacramento," Matthews told his teammate.

If the Blazers do in their next outing Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena, it will be a far cry from what they put on display in a 101-99 loss to Philadelphia at the Moda Center.

Two nights after matching the franchise record by making 21 3-pointers (out of 33 attempts) in a 134-104 rout of Charlotte, the Blazers sank 3 of 22 from beyond the arc -- a season-low 13.6 percentage.

"Two nights ago, we couldn't miss a shot," said Batum, who was 1 for 9 from the field and 0 for 4 from 3-point range. "Tonight, we couldn't make one. And we got the same type of shots."

The 3-point futility was the biggest reason Portland (26-8) shot a season-low 36.4 percent (36 for 99) from the field.

Then there were the 18 Blazer turnovers and the 64-40 points-in-the-paint advantage for the 76ers (12-21), who won their fourth in a row to finish a five-game Western Conference road trip 4-1.

Yet the Blazers came within a missed Damian Lillard scoop shot at the basket in the final second of forcing overtime. They dominated the boards 59-43 and grabbed 19 off the offensive glass, but still had only 18 second-chance points.

"We got a lot of the looks we hit every game," said Lillard, who scored 17 points but made only 6 of 20 shots, including 1 of 6 from 3-point range. "We missed a lot of shots. Usually when we need to hit a big shot, we do it. Tonight, we weren't able to."

"We didn't knock down shots," said Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 29 points to go with 14 rebounds and a season-high five blocked shots but made only 13 of 30 shots from the field. "Myself, the guards -- we all had great looks. I had open looks all night. I missed shots. You have nights like that. Our defense kept us in the game."

Portland's defense was decent. Philadelphia shot .455 from the field and made only 4 of 14 shots from 3-point land. But the Blazers never cooled down Sixers forward Thaddeus Young, who matched his season high with 30 points on 14-of-20 shooting -- including 4 for 4 in the fatal fourth quarter.

Portland survived a horrible start that saw the 76ers make their first six shots and jump to a 16-2 lead five minutes into the game. The margin was 20-4 when the Blazers began to claw back, drawing even late in the second quarter and going into halftime down only 52-50.

The Blazers led 84-77 with seven minutes to go, and it appeared the visitors might be weary and out of gas on the tail end of a long trip. Instead, they stormed back with a 13-0 run to go in front 90-84 with 4:20 to play. Portland got it even at 90-90 with 2:32 remaining, and it was back and forth until Philadelphia rookie Michael Carter-Williams stepped to the line with a 96-95 lead and 21.5 seconds to play. He converted the first attempt, then missed the second. The rebound was batted out of bounds, the call going to Portland. After a replay, the call was reversed, as it appeared Portland center Robin Lopez last touched the ball before it went out of bounds. Lopez objected strenuously to the call.

"I honestly didn't think I touched it," said the Portland center, who scored 14 points and grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds. "Maybe in the heat of the moment, I didn't feel the ball go off my fingers."

Philadelphia's Spencer Hawes sank a pair of gift shots with 19.3 seconds to up the Sixers' lead to 99-95, but Aldridge scored off a lob pass to make it 99-97 with 18 seconds left. After the 76ers' Evan Turner answered with two free throws to push the margin to 101-97 with 14.3 seconds left, the Blazers raced the ball upcourt, Lillard converting a layup with 7.9 seconds left.

Then the 7-foot Lopez made a huge play, stealing the inbound pass. The Blazers called time out with 5.4 seconds remaining. The team that went into the game an NBA-best 16-3 in games decided by 10 points or fewer was poised to either score a basket and force an extra session or knock down a 3 and win the game outright.

Lillard took the inbound pass and drove past Carter-Williams to the basket, but short-armed the shot enough that it missed. Game over.

"He rolled me (on the start of the drive)," said Lillard, who finished with only one assist and six turnovers in 35 minutes. "I was kind of pushing my way back against him, and when I got past him I was off-balance. But I still should have made the shot. I had a good look. Off-balance or not, that's a shot I have to make.

"That's the type of night it was. We didn't close the game out. Once we got them down seven points, we should have held them down. We let them back into it and came up short."

It was the biggest win of the season for Philadelphia under first-year coach Brett Brown, a former San Antonio assistant coach.

"We could have gotten deflated several times," Brown said. "We started the game with a bit of swagger, and then Portland's defense picked up in the middle two periods.

"To come up here and beat this team on their homecourt … this is a hard venue. I've come here many, many times and gone home a loser many, many times. It's one of those venues like Golden State where it's intimidating. It's loud, and they're well-coached and they have an excellent team. So you weight it all up, it's a real satisfying win."

The Blazers, of course, felt quite the opposite.

"We had chances to win it, and didn't quite make enough plays in the fourth quarter," coach Terry Stotts said. "After getting down early, we really competed, especially at the defensive end. It was one night when our offense kind of let us down."

NOTES: Portland is now 20-2 in games in which it took a lead into the fourth quarter. … Four of the Blazers' eight losses are by one or two points. … Lopez, who had a career-high nine offensive rebounds, was beating himself up afterward, stressing that Lillard's final miss "was not how we lost the game. I missed four free throws, and I caused at least three of Damian's turnovers. He gave me great passes, and I just bobbled the ball away. It's disappointing that the last shot didn't go down, but that's not the genesis of the loss." … Stotts wasn't unhappy with the quantity or quality of shots from 3-point range. "Twenty-two (attempts) is a moderate number," he said. "We had good looks at 3's. We just missed some shots." … It was an odd game for Batum, who didn't score until late in the third quarter. Portland's small forward finished with four points but got his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 assists before suffering an avulsion fracture of his left middle finger while committing his fifth foul late in the game. He is listed as probable for Tuesday's visit to Sacramento. … All three members of Portland's front line hit double figures in rebounds, Lopez, Aldridge and Batum combining to grab 39 caroms.

Aldridge's 30 field-goal attempts were one short of his career high set Dec. 26 against the Los Angeles Clippers. … The Blazers were held under 100 points for only the second time in the last 21 games, but also the second time in the last three games. … Reserve guard Mo Williams scored 11 of his 16 points in the second quarter for Portland. ... Ex-Blazer guard Elliot Williams went scoreless in six minutes for Philadelphia. … Portland is 13-4 at home, 13-4 on the road. … Aldridge passed Jerome Kersey to become the No. 4 career scorer in franchise history (10,068 points). … Portland entered as the NBA's highest-scoring team at 109 points a game. Philadelphia came in giving up the most points at 111 per game. Brown said before the game that wouldn't stop the Sixers from trying to run. "You could be adding gasoline to a roaring fire," Brown said. "We understand that. But this is who we are." … The Sixers also scored victories over the Lakers, Denver and Sacramento on the trip.

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