The Blazers came into Tuesday winners of 8 of the last 10 including a victory on Sunday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Milwaukee Bucks lost last night in Sacramento and sit at 13th in the improved Eastern Conference. Nothing about this game was pretty but the Blazers found a way to win their fifth straight. Some early outside shots opened up the lane for Lillard and McCollum and the Blazers withstood some second half runs by the Bucks to hold on for an ugly win.
The Blazers were led by CJ McCollum with 30 points. Damian Lillard struggled with his outside shot but finished with 14 points and 12 assists. Gerald Henderson added 14 points and some key athletic plays in one of his best games of the season. Khris Middleton found his shot in the second half and led the Bucks with 21 but on 7-22 shooting. Former Blazer Jerryd Bayless added 16 off the bench.
Noah Vonleh left in the second half with an ankle sprain.
The Blazers started hot with Al-Farouq Aminu hitting two threes and McCollum adding another to take a quick 15-6 lead. The Bucks doubled on every Blazer drive and Lillard and McCollum made them pay with unselfish ball movement to lead to some open looks. The teams couldn't have approached their half court sets differently with the perimeter allergic Bucks pounding the ball inside and the Blazers driving and kicking to produce open jumpers. Reeling, the Bucks began to double the pick and roll but Lillard showed some dazzling moves to break through for some easy layups. A buzzer beater by Gerald Henderson was waived off to leave the Blazers with an eight point advantage.
End of First: Portland 27 Milwaukee 19
Bayless shook off the Buck's shooting woes to hit a few early jumpers but the Blazers second unit defense held tough and kept their lead. An elbow by Greg Monroe to Meyers Leonard's head got the crowd involved but Middleton hit his first shot of the game to cut it to 40-30 midway through the quarter. The Blazers went up as many as 14 but a Bayless triple cut the lead to 51-44. Unfortunately, the highly anticipated Plumlee duel was cut short when Mason picked up his third foul and sat down. CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 15 first half points while Aminu added 13. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 15 and Bayless chipped in 11 off the bench.
Halftime: Portland 56 Milwaukee 49
A few early fouls and some uninspired offense by Portland let the Bucks back in the game. To make matters worse, Noah Vonleh left with an ankle injury after coming down awkwardly on a rebound attempt. Milwaukee wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders but a physical grind game seemed to play in their favor as Greg Monroe and Antetokounmpo started finding some success near the hoop. Luckily, the Blazers employ Ed Davis and he grinded right back for some second chance points and then a monstrous dunk to push the momentum back in the Blazers' favor. After another Bayless triple, Lillard draws a foul to push the Blazers' lead to 6 entering the final quarter.
End of Third: Portland 79 Milwaukee 73
Portland's defense showed up early, forcing the Bucks into some turnovers and tough outside shots. Gerald Henderson showed off his athletic ability with a huge put back dunk and added a transition three on the next possession to push the lead to 15 and the Blazers looked like they were in control. However, Middleton caught fire and scored 8 in a row for the Bucks to cut the lead to 92-84. The Bucks could not get any closer and the Blazers come up with their fifth straight win.
The Blazers host the surging Toronto Raptors on Thursday. Tip off is 7pm. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.