Sixers collapse late, lose to Blazers on the road

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By Josh Liddick, Sports Talk Philly editor

The Sixers haven't had the best luck this season with getting leads and then losing them late. In fact, it seems like it's been more of a trend than they would like it to be at this point in the season.

Leading by as many as 18 points mid-way through the third quarter, the Sixers allowed the Portland Trail Blazers to crawl back into the game, falling 114-110 at the Moda Center on Thursday night.

For a team that had been clicking on all cylinders, shooting 48.3-percent from the field and 50-percent from beyond the arc, losing the way they did didn't look like it was going to be part of the Sixers' plans in this game.

The Blazers ended up putting together a 42-point fourth quarter, erasing deficit after deficit and pulling away for a home victory against an equally young Sixers team.

The turnover bug hit the Sixers once again, as they committed a total 13 turnovers, including seven in the second half.

In terms of scoring, the Sixers had big nights from three separate players, led of course by center Joel Embiid, who finished the night with 29 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and a career-high 6-of-12 from downtown, including this monster three from no-man's land to cut the deficit down to three with nine seconds left, before Dario Saric committed a nonsensical violation. 

Besides a few dumb ball-handling mistakes that led to three turnovers, Dario Saric was a magician with the ball offensively for the Sixers. Finished with 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field, nine rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Dario was also clutch from three, sinking five of his six 3-pointers.

JJ Redick also played a mean game for the Sixers, getting his 3-ball flowing, finishing with 19 points, along with four 3-pointers.

Ben Simmons had 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting, with eight assists, four rebounds, and a steal.

In 34 minutes, TJ McConnell had one of the best bench performances this season for the Sixers, really proving his worth once again on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

McConnell scored 10 points, had six assists, three rebounds, and four steals.

The Blazers were thought to be at a major disadvantage without their star guard Damian Lillard, but they were able to field contributions from many other key players.

Shabazz Napier unleashed a bit of his University of Connecticut magic as Lillard's replacement, turning in a season-high 23 points, three rebounds, three assists, and three steals.

The Embiid-Jusuf Nurkic battle kept us entertained all night long, with Nurk finishing with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and went 11-of-16 from the foul line. Nurkic was plagued with foul trouble through much of the fourth quarter, but lucky for him, that fifth foul never turned into a sixth.

There were flagrant fouls called, roughness between players, leads given up, and unlikely players making an impact in this hard-fought interconference matchup between two teams still looking for their place in the NBA, and still overcoming growing pains.

The Sixers are still in desperate need of figuring out how to take the leads that are presented to them and being able to figure out ways to conserve them and keep the leads late instead of finding more ways to give them up to their opponents.

While Justin Anderson was probable to play this game, Head Coach Brett Brown likely decided to give Anderson an additional day to practice with the team before putting him out for a game situation.

The Sixers found themselves up by 18 points, eventually down by 10 points, and fighting for the victory in the closing minutes of the game.

Unfortunately, a late push from the likes of Embiid and Redick were unable to get the job done as the Sixers fell on the road, unable to put together a winning streak coming off a win over New York on Christmas Day.

The Sixers head to Denver to take on the Nuggets on Saturday night at 9 p.m. ET.