Trail Blazers Vs. Bucks Preview
March 18, 2014
By ELI KABERON
The Portland Trail Blazers thought returning home after a rough road trip would help them return to their winning ways, but a stunning defeat in the opener of a three-game homestand added to their misery.
Portland looks to get back on track Tuesday night when it hosts the Milwaukee Bucks, who own the worst record in the NBA but have done well against the Blazers recently.
The Trail Blazers (43-24) have dropped five of six, with the first four losses coming on their recent five-game trip. They hosted Golden State on Sunday but blew an 18-point lead in 113-112 loss, their second in the past three games in Portland.
Playing without All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge for the second consecutive contest because of a lower back contusion, the Blazers allowed a season-high 69 second-half points as the Warriors shot 60.0 percent from 3-point range in the fourth quarter.
Damian Lillard led Portland with 26 points and Nicolas Batum added 23 and 14 rebounds, but Batum missed a free throw with 5.8 seconds remaining that would have tied the game.
"Every loss (stinks). Every loss hurts - even more so now coming off the disappointing road trip that we had," guard Wesley Matthews said. "To come back and to get up 18 against a tough team that's playing desperate and right behind us in the standings, it's upsetting. But it's the NBA, we have to bounce back. We have two more at home before we go off on another road trip."
Aldridge's status is uncertain, though he seems unlikely to play Tuesday after just recently starting to walk without crutches.
Portland, in fifth place in the Western Conference, has allowed 108.2 points and 47.3 percent shooting during its 1-5 stretch.
The Bucks (13-54) appear to present the perfect opportunity for the Trail Blazers to get back on track defensively. Milwaukee is among the worst offensive teams in the league, scoring 94.5 points per game.
The Bucks lost their fourth in a row Sunday, 101-92 at home to Charlotte. Brandon Knight had 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but the Bobcats shot 57.4 percent, second highest for a Milwaukee opponent this season.
"We just didn't get stops," Knight said. "We struggled to get stops in the fourth quarter and they were able to stretch the lead out. We also didn't make shots, but you have to give yourself a chance to win by getting stops in the fourth quarter, consecutive stops."
Milwaukee is 1-10 on the road against Western Conference foes, but it's won two straight in Portland, the latest a 113-104 victory Jan. 19, 2013. The Bucks had won four in a row in the series before losing 91-82 in the most recent matchup Nov. 20.