Blazers Unable To Overcome Early Deficit In Loss To Bucks

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The Bucks needed a career night from Giannis Antetokounmpo and numerous plays clutch plays late on the defensive end to eke out a victory versus the Trail Blazers the first time the two teams met this season in Milwaukee. They'd need no such late-game heroics the second time around in Portland.

The Trail Blazers fell behind by 12 points in the first quarter, 15 in the second and 24 in the third before eventually losing 103-91 to the Bucks in front of a sellout crowd of 19,456 Thursday night at the Moda Center.

"After a good start, we never really quite got back on track," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "I thought Milwaukee's length and aggressiveness defensively gave us troubles throughout the night. We had a hard time finishing around the basket, especially in the first half. I think that kind of affected us on the other end a little bit. The second half, we just never quite could get there."

Portland is now 13-9 overall and 7-5 at home this season. With the win, the Bucks take the season series 2-0 for the second-straight season while extending their winning streak versus Portland to four games.

The Trail Blazers looked as though they'd at least have an opportunity to extend their winning streak to four games in the early going of Thursday night's game. But a 13-2 Bucks run to end the first quarter gave the road team a 12-point lead at the end of the first quarter, and it wouldn't get much better thereafter.

A 10-0 Portland run to start the second quarter, a run that featured two three-pointers from Al-Farouq Aminu, got the Trail Blazers within two with 9:28 to play in the quarter. But another 13-2 Milwaukee run pushed their lead back into double figures.

Even though Portland would shoot 50 percent from the field in the third quarter, they were still outscored 27-21 thanks mostly to turning the ball over seven times for 14 Milwaukee points. Between Portland's mistakes the Milwaukee shooting 47 percent, the Bucks were able to ride their 24-point  third quarter lead into a 12-point victory.

"You have a good trip and then the first game back at home, it's a setup for a letdown," said Damian Lillard. "We talked about that before the game. We wanted to come out and I guess play above that. They came in ready, they played a good game. We made one too many mistakes to give ourselves a great chance of winning the game."

Jusuf Nurkić led the Trail Blazers with a double-double of 25 points and 11 rebounds to go with three steals, a block and an assist in 31 minutes.

Lillard went 7-of-16 from the field for 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in 39 minutes. CJ McCollum added 15 points, six rebounds and five assists to round out Portland's double-digit scorers.

Aminu returned to the lineup after missing 13 games with a sprained right ankle to finish with six points and five rebounds in 22 minutes.

"I thought he looked good," said Stotts of Aminu's return. "The little run that we had in the first half, he made back-to-back threes. I thought physically he looked fine. He didn’t seem to be favoring his leg at all. His conditioning seemed like it was good. We were going to keep him at 20 minutes but we were able to go over a little bit; if we had gotten it close, he probably would have finished the game so that was a positive."

Five Bucks finished in double figures led by 26 points from Khris Middleton.

"I thought most of his shots were contested," said Stotts regarding Middleton. He was 10-for-17 but I thought a lot of them were contested. I doin't think he got a lot in the paint per se. From our defensive standpoint, obviously the transition was troublesome. They just made a lot of good plays."

Eric Bledsoe went four 25 points and Antetokounmpo, who had a career-high 44 points in the first meeting at the start of the season, added 20 points, nine assists, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks in 36 minutes.

Next up, the Trail Blazers continue a four-game homestand by hosting the Pelicans Saturday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.