Following a moderately successful road trip, the juggernaut Sixers aside, the Blazers returned home to a nationally televised game on ESPN and the first of a seven game home stand as the Blazers looked to make a move up the conference standings coupled with a Utah loss.
It was a game of offensive and defensive adjustments, quarter by quarter, for both teams as the game came down to the final minutes. The Blazers hustled and scrapped all game, but were hampered by poor three point shooting and a lack of baskets in the final minutes. Portland drops the first of another long home stand to the Hawks
The Blazers were led by CJ McCollum with 28 points and Damian Lillard with 18 points and 5 assists. Atlanta was led by Paul Millsap 23 points and 9 rebounds.
The Blazers looked fresh and energized to begin the game, playing solid defense leading to some smooth offense and they jumped on the Hawks 11-4. But the rest of the quarter belonged to Atlanta. The Hawks did what it does so well, which is move the ball efficiently on offense as to have the Blazers either over rotate or rotate not enough. The Hawks went on a 15-1 run to end the quarter as Atlanta's defense held Portland without a field goal for the second half of the quarter.
End of First: Portland 18, Atlanta 29
Atlanta's defense continued to have Portland completely out of sync to begin the quarter. Having taken out Damian Lillard early, the Blazers had nobody who could create their own shot, sending Portland into a 1-15 drought going back to the first quarter. Enter CJ McCollum, who helped cleave a 12 point lead in half. From there, Portland seemed to find its footing on offense while clamping down on the defensive end. The Blazers went on a 15-1 run and clawed their way back into contention, making this a game of adjustments going into the second half.
Halftime: Portland 43, Atlanta 48
If the second half was about adjustments, it was hard to tell who made the better in the third as the gap never seemed to waver more than five or six most of the quarter. Jeff Teague continued to hound Lillard and the Blazers couldn't make anything beyond the arc, usually recipes for disaster, but Portland continued to hang in. Lillard corralled his fourth foul late in the quarter but Ed Davis hit 2 FREE THROWS IN A ROW, a devastating blow for the Hawks' game plan entering the fourth quarter. CJ was pretty good too, with 24 at the end of the period.
End of Third: Portland 72, Atlanta 74
In what was the obvious game plan from the start; after starting 4-12 from the floor, Lillard completed a 4-point play to tie the game at 79 at the 9:42 mark and Portland scored 12 straight to eventually take the lead. But Atlanta battled back, taking a four point lead late in the quarter as Portland continued to be cold from outside.
With one minute to go, the Hawks led by six before McCollum cut the lead to four with 30 seconds remaining. A long reviewed out of bounds play extended the Blazers hope, but Portland couldn't find the clutch basket as the Hawks secured the win. A hard fought and well played game by both teams goes against the Blazers this time.
The Blazers get the next two days off before the Los Angeles Lakers come to town Saturday night in what will be the final game against Kobe Bryant. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.