PORTLAND (NBA.com exclusive)  --  For a quarter Tuesday night at the Rose Garden, the Portland Trail Blazers dominated the Atlanta Hawks.

For a half, Atlanta guard Joe Johnson was cold as an igloo.

Jamal Crawford wasn't, though. And when the smoke cleared, Atlanta had walked away with an important 97-91 victory over the Blazers.

Crawford came off the bench to score a game-high 27 points ? 17 in the first half. Then Johnson came to the party, scoring 17 of his 19 points in the second half as the Hawks improved to 3-1 this season.

Portland guard Brandon Roy and Crawford are Seattle natives who have played against each other and been friends for years.

"He's a good player, man," Roy said of Crawford, who played last season in New York. "He's a one-on-one guy. There were some (isolation) situations where he was able to create, especially when Joe was struggling early. Jamal kept them in the game. Good pickup for them."

Portland coach Nate McMillan has been preaching defense since training camp. Atlanta started the game shooting 2 for 12 and finished the first quarter 5 for 19 and trailing 35-25.

From that point, the Hawks were 32 for 61 (.525) from the field and outscored the Blazers 82-66 the rest of the way.

Conversely, Portland (2-3) was 10 for 18 in the first quarter and 26 for 67 the remainder of the game, finishing at .424 from the field.

"The two things you have to do to give yourself a chance to win is shoot the ball and play defense," McMillan said. "We didn't do either tonight."

In Portland's other two losses, Denver's Carmelo Anthony scored 41 points and Houston's Trevor Arizona had 33.

"Perimeter isolation," McMillan said. In Portland's losses, "a wing has had a big night. Tonight it was Crawford. You're out there (defending) by yourself, and you have to guard. We broke down and they were able to get to the paint and get layups without our bigs stepping in to help."

That wasn't the whole story. Portland entered the game as the No. 2 rebounding team in the NBA, but Atlanta won the battle of the boards 46-36 and points in the paint 50-34.

McMillan said he mentioned that to his players in his post-game talk.

"Our level of play has to go up," he said. "We're not playing as hard as we need to win games.

To win games in this league, you have to work. That's not something I've had to say to this group the last couple of years."

Atlanta's resilience and perseverence proved the difference.

"It was one of those games where you just have to grind," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "If we're going to be a team that makes that next push (in the playoffs), we have to win our fair share of games on the road. Tonight, it was a total team effort. Our defense really picked up in the second half when we needed it. For 48 minutes, we competed."

Johnson was awful the first half, scoring two points on 1-of-8 shooting. He found a rhythm early in the second half and was nails down the stretch, sinking 8 of 11 shots the final two periods.

"We didn't panic," the all-star guard said. "We hung around in the first half and pretty much the whole game. We just wanted to stay close, and down the stretch we played some good 'D' on Brandon Roy."

Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge were both on the money the first half, each with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Their opportunities were fewer in the second half. Roy was 2 for 10 in the half and finished with 19 points; Aldridge was 3 for 8 and led Portland with 20 points and 14 rebounds.

"My shot felt good, and we did a good job trying to get Brandon open early," Aldridge said. "But as the game went on, it was tougher for him to get clean looks. We have to do a better job of getting him open."

In the end, the biggest difference was Crawford, the bounced-around shooting guard who may have found a home in Atlanta.

"He was huge," Woodson said. "I haven't had a big-time guy off the bench like that."

Crawford is liking everything about his role so far.

"This is the most fun I've had in the NBA," the nine-year veteran said. "I haven't had these kinds of athletes to play with before. It feels good."

It doesn't feel so for the Blazers, who have lost back-to-back games at the Rose Garden. Portland was 34-7 at home and lost two in a row only once last season.

"We just have to keep working," Roy said. "Can't get down. It's just five games in. The important thing is that we stick with it. Plenty of time to improve. We just have to stay together. We have to figure this out."