The Portland Trail Blazers came alive late, defeating the New Jersey Nets in the Rose Garden tonight. The Nets, with Crash Wallace but without Deron Williams, gave the Blazers all they could handle. But in crunch time, Nicolas Batum and JJ Hickson helped Portland took care of business.
The Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge (24 points, 9 rebounds), with support from Batum (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Raymond Felton (14 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds). The young guys were a mixed bag, as Hickson (18 points, 8 rebounds) had another good night, Luke Babbitt did alright (6 points and a buzzer-beating three), and Jonny Flynn (5 points, 3 turnovers) struggled a bit. In his return to Portland, Wallace had a quiet night on the road, something very familiar to Blazer fans.
The Blazers maintained a slim lead through much of a quiet first half, thanks to a higher shooting percentage. Kris Humphries and DeShawn Stevenson took control of the Deron-less Nets, as the bench scored more first half points than the starters. The Blazers wasted a late 10 point lead, as the Nets closed to within 2 at halftime.
Wallace tied the game early in the third, but the Blazers quickly regained control. When Aldridge dunked on the break with 6 minutes left, the lead reached 14. LaMarcus' tip-in made the lead 16, and the Nets called timeout. NJ slowly crawled back into the game, but a Babbitt three at the buzzer pushed the lead back to 12 after three.
Thanks to a flagrant foul by Nolan Smith, the Nets started the fourth with a 5 point play, followed quickly by a foul for three free throws. Soon the lead was down two, and Coach Kaleb needed a timeout. That didn't help, as the Nets scored 5 more quick points to take a 3 point lead. The lead wouldn't get bigger, as Batum rose to the occasion. Three's, rebounds, tip-ins, you name it. With 2 minutes left, a short Hickson leaner put the Blazers ahead by 9. New Jersey had nothing left in the tank after that, as Portland played out the clock.