The Portland Trail Blazers kept up with the high-scoring Bucks for a while, but ran out of energy when Milwaukee got defensive in the second half, eventually losing by a non-representative 22 points. As a fan, this is just one of those losses that you shrug and accept after a big win last night, and move on to the next game.
The Blazers came out hot to start the game, using a 10-2 run to take a 7 point lead. However, the Bucks used more hot outside shooting to rush back into the game, eventually leading by 2 after one. Jamal Crawford woke up in the second, pulling the Blazers back into the lead. Meanwhile, JJ Hickson and Luke Babbitt led the bench into a chippy performance, staying ahead of the Bucks for much of the second quarter. The starters continued where the bench left off, and a Joel tip-in at the buzzer gave the Blazers a 9 point halftime lead.
It's at this point, I need to interject with an e-mail from Dave: "I saw the halftime score in passing. I am calling this now. Doesn't matter if the Blazers are up. That high scoring of a game is a trap. They're playing into the Bucks' hands."
As if taking a cue from Dave, it took minutes for Milwaukee to jump back in the game, tying the game at 69. But the Blazers didn't back down, as the starters (plus Hickson) picked up the defense and regained a 7 point lead. Then it was Milwaukee's turn. They turned up the defensive energy by two notches, while more three pointers and layups gave them their first lead since the early minutes. They outscored the Blazers by 12 in the quarter, finishing with a three point lead.
The fourth quarter began with a Bucks dunk on a broken play, followed by a Udrih jumper. That capped a 12 point Milwaukee run against the Blazer bench, giving them a 7 point lead. Kaleb quickly called timeout. But the Blazer confusion continued, and finally the starters returned. However, they seemed to play HORSE with three-pointers. There were no winners. When Brandon Jennings hit a tough three-pointer over Felton, the Bucks' lead reached 11 with 6 minutes left. Another dunk made it 13, as the Blazers started to look a step slow on every play. As if to remind you how tired the team was, Babbitt airballed a three to the fans' delight. With 2:28 left, Nolan and Thabeet checked in, and the game was over.
We'll keep the player section short. The team clearly ran out of steam as the game progressed. There won't be many lessons to learn from this game.
LaMarcus Aldridge struggled with his shot early, but finished with a decently-efficient 21 points. His 3 assists and 2 steals were great, but his 3 rebounds said volumes about his energy. At the same time, hey, our tired All-Star, who hit the game winner in overtime last night, still scored 21 points on 53% shooting. That's a nice luxury.
Raymond Felton had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists, but 5 turnovers. How you feel is how you feel when it comes to Raymond, so let's move on.
Nicolas Batum only scored 9, on 4-8 shooting with no free throws and 2 rebounds. But considering the reports that Batum's knee is bothering him, this kind of stat line makes more sense.
Jamal Crawford scored double-figures on a poor shooting performance again. Amazingly, he was tied for second-most assists tonight. He seems to be just playing out the stretch run, looking toward July 1st.
The young guys were mixed again. JJ Hickson brought energy in the second quarter, finishing with 9 points and 5 rebounds (he and Joel were the only serious rebounders for the Blazers tonight). Luke Babbitt scored 12, including some garbage time points. Jonny Flynn had 2 points and 3 turnovers. But on the bright side, he had 3 rebounds, which was pretty good for the Blazers tonight.
Rebounding is a sign of effort and energy, and the Blazers were out-rebounded 49-33. That, combined with the three-point shooting disparity (48% to 27%), led to defeat.
Check out the box score and the standings, then later the jersey contest results will be updated. Dave is daring to moonlight on this Easter weekend, but he'll be back for Monday night's game, when the Houston Rockets arrive at the Garden. -- Tim