But then the third quarter happened.
The Trail Blazers responded after the intermission with a 19-5 run on the way to outscoring the 76ers 40-15 in the third quarter while putting up 71 points in the second half to come away with a 139-105 victory, their Western Conference-leading 20th win of the season.
In the process, the Trail Blazers once again set the franchise record for three-pointers made in a game with 21, breaking the previous record of 17 that they had set just eight days ago against the Jazz.
“Look, we’ve got good shooters,” said Stotts. “They have a track record of being good shooters. The challenge is to continue to trust each other, trust the pass when you’re playing against good defensive teams, to execute. We’re not going to set records like this every night but we have good shooters. The priority is to get them good shots.”
While there has been a general feeling among NBA circles that the Trail Blazers couldn’t possibly shoot 41 percent from three as a team for the season, the fact that the team has broken the franchise record for makes twice in a little over a week would seem to indicate the Trail Blazers are a getting good shots through the offense rather than just getting lucky.
“I don’t see how it could be a fluke, we’ve played almost 25 games now,” said Damian Lillard, who went four of six from behind the arc and finished with 16 points. “It’s still early but we’ve been able to do it for this long. I think that’s pretty much what we do: We hit three’s and we shoot them well. When we get the amount of good looks that we got like tonight, I think we’ll make a lot.”
Portland’s 139 points are the most the team has scored in regulation since putting up 143 against the Warriors on Jan. 26, 1993 and are the most scored in an NBA game this season. Portland’s 52 field goals also ties the most made shots by an NBA team in a game this season.
The Trail Blazers are now the first NBA team to win at 10 road games this season and are a perfect 9-0 this season against the Eastern Conference.
LaMarcus Aldridge lead all scorers with 20 points to go along with 16 rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block in 29 minutes and Robin Lopez finished with 12 points and four blocks. While the frontcourt duo combined to go 15 of 23 from the field, Stotts credited their defensive improvement in the third quarter as the catalyst for the victory.
“It’s easy to point at the offensive end but I was really pleased with LaMarcus and Robin defensively, particularly in the third quarter,” said Stotts. “They really helped on the pick and rolls, the switched onto guards on pick and rolls, took away angles, protected the rim. I thought what those two guys did, particularly in the third quarter, was really the difference in the game. I mean, 71-64 at halftime, but what everybody did in the third quarter, particularly those two guys defensively, was very good.”
“As a team we came together and realized we had to have a little more of an effort on the defensive end,” said Lopez. “I think personally, I just got a little more comfortable guarding a shooting five-man. I was a little more comfortable helping off and figuring out when to do so (in the second half).”
Nicolas Batum, who turned 25 on Saturday, shot six of ten from the field and three of seven from three to finish with 17 points, nine assists and five rebounds.
Dorell Wright went a perfect five of five from the field, all from three, to finish with 15 points off the bench against his former team.
“It was a good feeling to go out there and make some shots,” said Wright. “I’ve been in a little slump as far as my shooting so it felt good to come back here in Philly, where I was last year, had an opportunity to make some shots. I felt good out there, guys were finding me. We’re a good team as far as shooting the three ball and also moving the ball as well. Guys were finding me and I was just taking my shots with a lot of confidence.”
Wesley Matthews added 14 points on five of 14 shooting and Mo Williams, who rejoined the team in Philadelphia just a few hours before tipoff after attending a family funeral in Alabama earlier in the day, scored 14 points on five of nine shooting.
As stellar as Portland’s shooting display Saturday night was, their 41 assists on 52 makes was maybe more impressive. It’s the most assists the Trail Blazers have record since dishing out 45 against the Nuggets on Nov. 17, 1990.
“More than the three’s, I don’t know if I’ve been on a team that had 41 assists,” said Stotts. “You make shots, but the passing the ball, coming off the passes is the thing I was most pleased with.”
Stotts was also surely pleased with taking a 32-point lead into the fourth quarter, which allowed the Trail Blazers to sit their starters and regular rotation players in the fourth quarter. The result was every Trail Blazer on the active roster played and scored at least two points.
The Trail Blazers now travel to Detroit to take on the Pistons in the second night of a back-to-back. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 PM.