All the talk and belief that this 76ers team would benefit from returning the top 12 players from last season and not having to tinker with added personnel might turn out to be true. But in the team’s season-opener against the Trail Blazers last night it looked about as cohesive as a group of high-paid free agents thrown together before the start of the season.
And Philly fans know how hard that can be at times.
Sloppy play, in particular 20 turnovers, did in the Sixers as they dropped a 107-103 decision to Portland in the first of five-straight road games to open the season.
“Turnovers,” said coach Doug Collins. “Turnovers and offensive rebounding. Up until about two minutes to go in the game they had taken 21 more than us.
“They scored 28 points off of turnovers, and I told our guys that we can’t win that way. Our competitive will kept us in that game. That Portland team is good. They’re really good. They’ve got size, they’ve got versatility. Aldridge hurt us early, but we forced him to take 25 shots to score 25 points. It was just rebounding and turnovers.”
But early is really where Portland won the game. They took that 11 point lead in the first quarter and seemed to be able to do just enough all game to never relinquish it.
As Collins said before the game, though, the Rose Garden brings with it a chaotic, playoff-like atmosphere. There are probably few other places on the road that would be harder to open a season, especially if you add into the equation the 2,900 mile trip.
“I thought we came out a little bit slow,” said Jrue Holiday, who scored 13 points but committed six turnovers and dealt just two assists. “I know personally I came out a little bit slow. I didn’t come out the way I wanted to. We had the second group come in and kind of pick us up. Dre (Iguodala) kept us in there with the first group. Opening game jitters. We’ll get the jitters out and feel more comfortable.
“I can get carried away. I had six turnovers myself. Those are possessions we need and at the same time they scored off of them. They paid way more attention to the basketball than we did. Every turnover is vital.”
As evident by the 28 points the Trail Blazers scored off the Sixers’ 20 giveaways.
Lou Williams led the Sixers with 25 points off the bench, while Iguodala added 22. Spencer Hawes turned in his best game as a Sixer, collecting 10 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists.
Backing Aldridge for Portland was Gerald Wallace, who had 21 points and nine rebounds. Wesley Matthews scored 16 and ageless Marcus Camby had 13 rebounds and six assists in 29 minutes.
Many of the Sixers talked after the game of getting over the opening night jitters. They won’t have to wait long to make sure they did, as they’ll play at the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. The road trip continues with games Friday in Utah, Saturday at Golden State and next Wednesday in New Orleans.