Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
The Portland Trail Blazers trailed all night before mounting a wild fourth quarter comeback, but eventually fell short to the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks took an early 9-0 lead over the Blazers, and it left them playing catchup most of the night.
The Blazers were led by JJ Hickson (19 points, 18 rebounds) and Nicolas Batum (19 points, 7 rebounds), with support from Wesley Matthews (17 points). LaMarcus Aldridge (14 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists) struggled to score until late, and Damian Lillard (12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists) had a "rookie game," so the fans don't get too spoiled watching him.
Before you had a chance to grab a beer, Atlanta had already grabbed the aforementioned 9-0 lead. The Blazers looked [insert adjective here: tired, lethargic, unprepared, uncaring]. Each time the Blazers had possession, if you turned away, you'd look back and Atlanta somehow had the ball. The crowd was shell-shocked, and Atlanta had a 13 point lead after just 6 minutes. After Lillard's departure, the Blazers slowly inch back into the game, cutting the deficit to 5 briefly before ending the quarter down by 6.
How many turnovers can we make off lazy passes?
The second quarter started with consecutive Blazer possessions that ended with a lazy pass near half court, stolen by the Hawks for layups. The lead was quickly double-figures again. Coach Terry Stotts gave the bench players an opportunity, with early appearances by Will Barton and Joel Freeland. Within minutes, the Atlanta lead was 15, but thanks to some timely offensive rebounding, the Blazers kept within single digits as the starters returned. However, Kyle Korver hit consecutive three's to re-establish the Hawks. A key moment for the Blazer defense: Jeff Teague drove down the lane, past four Blazers (two on each side) for an easy layup. But thanks to a few late points from Lillard, Portland stayed within 9 at halftime.
I think Stotts is playing the bench as to show people......see? This is what you asked for.
Another round of back-and-forth to start the third quarter, as the lead floated over and under that 9 point barrier. As the 6 minute mark passed, the energy arrived, as Batum and Hickson helped a frantic Blazer team try to close the gap. With 3 minutes left, the deficit reached 4. However, a moving pick led to Aldridge's fourth foul shortly after, and he went to the bench. Atlanta held an 8 point lead after three.
Man I hate it when Dave is a big pessimist and then it turns out he’s a realist.
by Jeffe Portland
Yet again, Atlanta quickly pushed the lead to double-figures to start the fourth quarter. The Blazers mounted another comeback, with Aldridge returning at the 8 minute mark, hoping to improve his struggling numbers. A Matthews steal and slam cut the lead to 5, forcing an Atlanta timeout. However, Ronnie Price hit a jumper to get the Blazers within one possession for the first time since the score was 2-0. Matthews cut the deficit to 1, and the Blazers had a chance for the lead but Aldridge missed a jumper. Down by 3, Hickson tossed up a hook as the foul whistle sounded, and it bounced in. His free throw tied the game for the first time since 0-0, as the crowd jumped to their feet! Aldridge moved inside for some post work, and gave the Blazers the lead with two free throws. The teams traded the lead down the stretch, as Aldridge rediscovered the post, to the Hawks' dismay. However, the Hawks scored eight straight points for a 6 point lead, as the Blazers' shots (including free throws) stopped falling. That proved to be too much to overcome, as the last comeback fell short.
Check out the box score here. Stay tuned for plenty of analysis from Dave, along with Ben's onsite Media Row report. The next game is tomorrow night, in Sacramento. In-n-Out is only for winners, guys. -- Tim
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