Sixers hold off Blazers

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Damien Wilkins drives for a layup with Nicolas Batum defending.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Damien Wilkins drives for a layup with Nicolas Batum defending.
Posted: March 20, 2013

THE NEWS couldn't have come at a worse time. The Sixers are in the midst of playing their best basketball of the season and led the Portland Trail Blazers by eight at halftime, another solid offensive performance.

Then word was passed to press row that Andrew Bynum was going to have surgery Tuesday on both knees and the rest of his season was lost before it ever began.

The announcement on Bynum wasn't unexpected, it was just that the timing was bad. Instead of the focus being put on the team's play, here it was, yet again, on the prized acquisition who never came to be. It is sort of a microcosm of the 76ers' season, the bad news seeming to override the good.

The Sixers played their fourth consecutive solid game and came out with their third win, 101-100, on a late defensive stand that was necessitated by an almost game-changing turnover.

For most of the season, that turnover - an inbounds pass that went out of bounds after Jrue Holiday tripped over a teammate's foot with 7.1 seconds remaining and the team leading by one - would have resulted in another loss. But the tide has turned a bit lately, and that has earned the Sixers wins over Brooklyn, Indiana and Portland and a narrow loss to the unstoppable Miami Heat.

On the final play, Portland didn't disguise what the plan was. It dumped the ball down to LaMarcus Aldridge and allowed him to go against Spencer Hawes. Aldridge, who already had scored 32 points, backed Hawes down to about the 12-foot area. Hawes, though, stood up Aldridge right there and the 7-footer had to settle for a tough turnaround that clanged off the rim. Hawes tipped the rebound up in the air and the clock expired on the Sixers' 26th win in 66 games.

"There's a reason he's an All-Star," Hawes said of Aldridge. "Those may look like tough shots, maybe, but those are the shots he hits night in and night out. I think we did a good job of adjusting in the second half, trying to get the ball out of his hands a little bit."

Aldridge, who also collected 14 rebounds, missed only one of his first eight shots, but finished making just six of his last 20. Hawes was glued to him most of the time and also found his way to 18 points and 13 rebounds for his second straight double-double and his fourth in six games.

Holiday paced the Sixers with 27 points, while also collecting eight rebounds and six assists, and Thaddeus Young followed with 19 points. Dorell Wright continued his hot play with 16 off the bench and Damien Wilkins added 12.

"That's a very tough team to play because of the way they like to shoot the three," coach Doug Collins said. The Blazers were 12-for-28 from beyond. "Aldridge and [Damien] Lillard [27 points], those two guys have been averaging 49 over the last five games, they got 59 tonight. We had a loose ball that we couldn't come up with when we were up five, could have had it. Give up a three-point play. Give up another loose ball and give up a three and then a turnover. So we fought through two threes and won the game.

"Once again the ball movement was great, 31 assists. Our turnovers hurt us tonight. Not the quantity [14], but they had 26 points off them. It seemed like every time we turned the ball over, they hurt us, especially with their three-point shooting."

Portland did that, but lately the Sixers have been finding answers to problems they mostly haven't been able to solve this season. Though they turned the ball over seven times in the final 12 minutes, they rode Holiday's 11 fourth-quarter points and made enough plays down the stretch at both ends of the floor to send themselves off on a four-game western trip with the satisfaction of having won three of four tough home games.

And with Hawes playing at a high level.

"We've all seen it before," Holiday said. "I guess it was a matter of time when it was going to happen. Obviously, he's been stepping up to the plate, especially against the caliber of bigs that have come in here. That's Spencer, stepping up."

Stepping up on a night when the other big man was being officially shut down. For the Sixers, that was good timing.

Collins on Bynum

Doug Collins, on Andrew Bynum's season-ending surgery:

"It's sad. It's been a tough year for our franchise and it's been a tough year for Andrew. As a man who suffered injuries as a young player, it's devastating. I can only imagine what's racing through his mind right now. We've sort of sensed as the season was going on he'd make a little progress and then the minute he picked it up a little bit it would be slowed. I just think it was at the point in time where Andrew had to get something done.

"I feel badly I didn't get a chance to coach him this year. I think he would have been an incredible player for us. I just want to wish him well. When you give up a lot for a player and the player comes in and doesn't play, I don't think people realize the pain that that player feels. Sometimes we look at a player at his exterior and maybe we don't understand how they absorb things internally. I know Andrew, just talking to him, how badly he wanted to play this year and be a part of this team and help us."

On Twitter: @BobCooney76



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