Fresh off a tough loss, the Portland Trail Blazers came out with energy, defense, rebounding, and LaMarcus Aldridge, leaving the Atlanta Hawks in the dust for a 20 point victory. The Hawks fell behind by double digits early, and never truly put up a challenge afterward.
The Blazers were led by Aldridge (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Nicolas Batum (22 points, 8 rebounds), with strong support from Wesley Matthews (13 points, 2 steals) and the one-and-only Raymond Felton (bouncing back with 14 points and 8 assists). Portland's 50-27 rebounding edge made all the difference.
In the first quarter, the Blazers and Hawks enjoyed a shootout, making 65% and 67% of their shots, respectively. Every Blazer starter played well, each scoring 4 or more points and led by Nicolas Batum. The Blazers led by 8 after one.
The Hawks struggled to keep up in the second as the hot shooting abated. Behind Batum and Aldridge, the Blazers held off every run, and kept trying to increase the lead. Suddenly, after struggling all week, the Blazers looked like a rebounding juggernaut. A late run, capped by a Felton floater just before the halftime buzzer, left the Blazers with a 15 point lead.
The second half began with more Blazer goodness. LaMarcus looked like he hadn't missed a game, including a sweet up-and-under move to leave the Hawks frozen for a layup. The Hawks called time when the deficit reached 19. They made another run, but just like the others, the Blazers fought right back. The last half of the quarter involved a lot of trading buckets, and an eventual 16 point Blazer lead.
Two Blazer Technical Fouls opened the fourth quarter, on Crash and Wesley. This helped the Hawks close the gap a little, only to watch Wesley Matthews help the Blazers hold up the lead. With 5 minutes left, Batum knocked down a three, leaving the Blazers with a 22 point lead and extended garbage time. Elliot Williams enjoyed a few points and cheers, and everyone went home happy. Except the Hawks.
Check out the box score, then stay tuned for Dave's recap and Ben's media row report. We all get a night off, then the Blazers visit the Lakers for a game on TNT. -- Tim