USA TODAY Sports
Despite playing their fourth game in five nights, the Portland Trail Blazers kept things close most of the night. And when the Atlanta Hawks went cold in the fourth quarter, the Blazers took advantage for the upset victory.
The Blazers were led by Wesley Matthews' 28 points, including 5-8 from three-point land. LaMarcus Aldridge added 20 and 13, Damian Lillard had 22 points and JJ Hickson contributed 15 points with 10 rebounds. Nicolas Batum had a unique line, with 5 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals.
I'm not going to go crazy recapping the first half. It's one of those halves where if you missed it, you'd never notice. The clearly-tired Blazers did their best to stay close to the Hawks throughout the half, helped by Atlanta's own mediocre performance. The Blazers actually took the lead late in the half, thanks to some Matthews heroics, but that only led to a line of layups and dunks for the Hawks. The game was tied at halftime.
Is this game being played in slow motion?
Third Quarter: Did I mention the Blazers looked tired? Atlanta started putting in a little effort, and quickly jumped to a double-digit lead. But just as things looked lost, Matthews and Lillard started bombing away from downtown, cutting the deficit to two. Atlanta led by 3 after three.
Fourth Quarter: The three-point bombs continued, as Batum and Lillard nailed consecutive ones, the latter a 4-point play. Portland led by 4 when Atlanta needed a timeout. Nobody could gain an advantage afterward, despite Lillard's extended rest. He returned to a 1 point lead, but a perfect give-and-go from Batum to Hickson to Batum gave the Blazers a 5 point lead with four minutes left. Atlanta simply could not score, and Aldridge found Lillard open for three. Swish. The Hawks took a timeout, down 8 with 2:30 left. But their scoreless streak continued, while poor Blazer free throw shooting kept the game in single digits. The Hawks finally scored, but they decided not to foul. Aldridge burned them with a wide-open jumper, and the stumped Hawks ran out of options. Portland heads to OKC on a two-game road winning streak.
Stay tuned for more analysis from Blazer’s Edge later tonight. In the meantime, check out the upcoming Blazers schedule. -- Tim