Trail Blazers Vs. Hawks Preview
March 5, 2014
By JOHN KOSIK
The high-scoring Portland Trail Blazers appeared to have found a nice balance before a defensive relapse ended their recent winning streak.
The Atlanta Hawks, meanwhile, have been scoring in bunches over the last few weeks with virtually nothing to show for it.
Following a rare home loss, the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night host a hobbled Hawks team that has only two victories since the start of February.
The Blazers, leading the NBA with 107.8 points per game, hadn't held back-to-back opponents below 100 since late November before doing so throughout a five-game winning streak in which they allowed an average of 92.4.
Portland (41-19) had been surrendering 103.9 points per game prior to the streak - 27th in the league - and returned to that form Monday with a 107-106 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 21 points and Damian Lillard added 20 for the Blazers, who trailed by as much as 15 in the opening quarter before tying it at 105 on a fadeaway jumper by Wesley Matthews with 1:10 left.
Lillard hit one of two free throws to give Portland the lead, but the officials reversed a possession call with 7.1 seconds left, giving the ball to the Lakers. Wesley Johnson scored with 6.9 to go off a lob from Kent Bazemore for the final margin.
"They were making shots. They were making jumpers. I think we were deflated all the way around," Matthews said. "Their energy was higher than ours."
Robin Lopez added 19 points and 16 rebounds, while Nicolas Batum had 17 points and 15 boards for the Blazers, who fell to 23-8 at home and to 2-1 on a four-game homestand.
Portland has dropped three of its last four home meetings with Atlanta and is 2-7 in the series dating to March 2009, but the Hawks come into this matchup reeling from 11 losses in 12 games since beating Minnesota on Feb. 1.
Atlanta (26-32) hasn't been able to turn things around even by averaging 108.2 points over its last five, dropping four of those contests. The Hawks put up 120 points in a losing effort at Phoenix on Sunday, giving up 129 to fall to 0-2 on a six-game trip.
The Hawks had been 5-0 this season when scoring at least that many points, but they had no answers for the Suns, who set an NBA season high for points before halftime (79) and hit 15 3-pointers.
"They shot the ball extremely well. They play with great pace, they put lot of pressure on your defense, make or miss," coach Mike Budenholzer said. "Our transition defense wasn't good enough."
Jeff Teague scored 29 points on 14-of-21 shooting and Mike Scott had 20 for Atlanta.
With forward Paul Millsap, who leads the team at 17.6 points per game, still sidelined by a right knee contusion, and big men Al Horford and Gustavo Ayon out for the season, newly signed center Mike Muscala will likely get plenty of minutes after a solid debut Sunday.
Muscala, a 2013 second-round pick who signed after a buyout of his Spanish League contract, played 19 minutes and had four points, five rebounds and two blocks.
The Hawks have lost seven straight to fall to 9-21 away from home this season. Atlanta hasn't had a longer road slide since losing the final 13 away games of the 2006-07 season.