Losing the first game of the new year hurts. Losing another center could hurt even more.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points and 12 rebounds, Damian Lillard had 16 points and 7 assists, but the Portland Trail Blazers fell at Moda Center to the Atlanta Hawks, 115-107, Saturday night, losing center Joel Freeland in the process.
The Blazers started out hot with an 8-0 run to kick off the game. Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews had two threes and six points a piece, but the wheels fell off in the second half of the quarter. Atlanta closed the period with an 18-3 run powered by seven Portland turnovers and the Hawks dominating the paint. With the Blazers unable to go without a turnover for long, Atlanta took a 29-20 lead after one.
The bad news for Portland in the second quarter was the turnovers continued to be a huge factor. Steve Blake and Chris Kaman had three each in the half, and the Blazers had 13 as a team at the break. The good news was that the threes were falling like rain. Dorell Wright, CJ McCollum, Blake and Matthews all hit threes in the quarter, the Blazers had nine total threes at halftime, shooting 56% from behind the arc as a team. Atlanta at one point scored on ten straight possessions, but when the shots stopped falling for the Hawks, the Blazers took advantage with key baskets by Aldridge. Portland got as close as one, but late free throws by Paul Millsap gave Atlanta a three point lead at the break.
Atlanta held serve after halftime, expanding their lead to as large as 20 off of a combined 9-of-10 shooting in the quarter by Jeff Teague and Millsap. Yet the Blazers refused to go down without a fight. Lillard finally got his shot to fall, shooting 3-of-4 in the quarter for eight points, including a buzzer-beater to end the quarter. Aldridge had eight as well, and the Blazers cut the lead to eight with one quarter to play.
The Hawks controlled the start of the fourth quarter, but the worst moment came with 9:09 remaining in the period. Paul Millsap went up for a dunk and Freeland blocked it, but had his shoulder twisted back awkwardly from the momentum. Freeland was in clear pain and went to the locker room immediately. He did not return.
Without Freeland, the Hawks took advantage of the smaller Portland lineup to extend their lead. Aldridge led a rally late, scoring 12 in the period and helping the Blazers cut the lead to as little as six, but Atlanta pulled away in the final minute.
Dorell Wright had 10 points off the bench. Matthews had 19 and Batum had 16.
Gameday Thread Comments of the Night
You know? I'm so used to winning I feel like the Spurs. "Oh we actually lost one?"
Well. We all knew we were going to lose some games against good teams while we don't have Rolo. Let’s not forget how crazy good the last road trip was. It’s ok to lose some games like this, it’s going to happen. The homestand is long and some weaker teams are coming, so we’ll be alright.
What matters now is Freeland’s injury.
Stotts had no more info on Freeland's shoulder injury.— Mike Richman (@mikegrich) January 4, 2015
Freeland still getting an exam....hurt his right shoulder. Still no word on the severity #Blazers— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) January 4, 2015
. @wessywes2 said he felt the sole coming off his shoe in the second quarter. Came all the way off after he shot a three in the second half.— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) January 4, 2015
I wouldn't expect an update on Joel Freeland's shoulder until tomorrow, but I've been wrong before.— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) January 4, 2015
#Blazers have allowed a total of 64 points in the paint in 3 of the last 4 games now... vs #76ers, #Raptors & tonight vs #Hawks— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) January 4, 2015
Paul Millsap scored 22 of his 27 pts in the paint. Called playing down low "an in-game strategy" #Hawks used— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) January 4, 2015
Millsap on his relationship with Matthews: "It's a love, hate relationship. He's my brother. " #Hawks #Blazers— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) January 4, 2015
.@aldridge_12: "We were pretty passive as far as trying to take the fight to them." #BlazersTalk @trailblazers— Jay Allen (@PDXjay) January 4, 2015
S/O to the #FropezNest! Thanks for the support, Seriously THE BEST FANS IN THE NBA! #FropezArmy #NeverSayDie #RIPCITY pic.twitter.com/tXOVL7BHF9— Robin Lopez (@rolopez42) January 4, 2015
MRI confirms Portland F/C Joel Freeland sustained a right shoulder strain. He'll be reevaluated in two weeks.— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) January 4, 2015
VIDEO: Chris Kaman dunks to complete a nice assist from Steve Blake.
VIDEO: Nicolas Batum finishes off a fast break with a difficult layup.
VIDEO: Damian Lillard beats the third quarter buzzer with a three from well beyond the arc.