Trail Blazers vs Rockets Tuesday, 03/01/11 AT 07:00PM

Cold Streaks Spell Disaster For Trail Blazers

  1. Written by: Grant Lucas  / avg. rating: 3.0

    In a roller coaster-type contest that had the Rose Garden range from sitting on the edge of its seat with its hands in the air to its head in its hands, the Portland Trail Blazers (33-26) fell short of a dramatic comeback, dropping Sunday night's contest to the Atlanta Hawks (36-23) 90-83.

    Portland trailed by as many as 23 points on the night thanks to multiple droughts lasting at least four minutes, but late in the fourth quarter, the Trail Blazers narrowed the gap to six with a 16-2 run that was filled with suffocating defense and an up-tempo offense. The Hawks, however, clamped down and sealed the win with free throws.

    During their fourth-straight victory against the Trail Blazers, the Hawks used the second and third periods to space themselves from the opposition. In those frames, Atlanta outscored Portland 49-31 and held the Trail Blazers to just 25 percent shooting.

    "First of all, we didn't shoot the ball worth nothing tonight - I mean, 39 percent and 19 (percent) from the three," Head Coach Nate McMillan said. "I thought we missed some open shots, but [the Hawks] packed it in and they tried to take away LA and made other guys shoot the ball... You've got to make your shots."

    The Trail Blazers saw three players reach double figures, led by Andre Miller, who tallied 20 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists. LaMarcus Aldridge added 19 points and eight boards, while Wesley Matthews finished with 12 points.

    "They've got players who can make a lot of plays, they're a great one-on-one team," Matthews said. "We didn't really defend the ball that well. They got a lot of easy transition buckets, which is part of their game. They had some offensive rebounds, we couldn't finish possessions. And then we couldn't score."

    In his first game back since Jan. 17, Marcus Camby pulled down six rebounds and dished out three assists.

    "It feels OK. Normal soreness after the game," he said. "It just felt a little weird being out there, not being out there for a long time, just trying to get my timing and get my bearings to what they were before I got hurt. Today was a good start for me. Now I can just go from here."

    Gerald Wallace, who made his debut with Portland after being traded from the Charlotte Bobcats, chipped in with nine points and five boards, but shot just 4-for-12 from the field.

    "We put him in the post, he has some post-ups and was aggressive," McMillan said about Wallace. "That will come, as far as sets that we can run for him."

    Atlanta's high-point man was Jamal Crawford, who registered 23 points off the bench, while Joe Johnson tacked on 22 points. Josh Smith contributed with 14 points and 11 rebounds. The two combined for 19 of the Hawks' 22 points in the fourth quarter.

    "I think we just came in with energy," Crawford said. "Our starters set the tone, and our bench just tried to take it from there. When we get rolling like that we're pretty tough to stop."

    Despite forcing Atlanta into a season-high 25 turnovers, converting those into 23 points while tying a season high with 13 steals, Portland was outrebounded 49-34 and outscored 17-4 on fastbreak points.

    "That's how we want to play," Crawford said on scoring in the open floor. "We want to get the ball up and down. That's where we're able to use our athleticism, and the floor's open for all of our shooters and our big guys to get easy baskets as well."

    Aldridge accounted for eight of Portland's first 12 points, hitting four of six shots to help the Trail Blazers build a 12-8 advantage midway through the opening period.

    Atlanta held a 19-18 edge after one quarter of action, despite shooting just 34.8 percent from the field. A 10-2 run to close the period, as well as seven second-chance points helped the Hawks regain control in the waning moments.

    Miller drove through the lane and laid in a close look, snapping a 4:27 drought and a 15-0 Hawks run that, after Miller's bucket, put the Trail Blazers in a 13-point hole at 42-29 with less than three minutes to go in the half.

    The second quarter saw the Hawks outscore the Trail Blazers 29-18, with 13 of Atlanta's points coming from the charity stripe. The Hawks went 13-for-15 from the line and 7-for-12 from the field, while Portland ended the frame 8-for-28 from the floor.

    Portland's second drought of the evening occurred in the third and lasted nearly seven minutes. Atlanta capitalized and strung together a 16-3 run to extend its lead to 66-43, its largest margin of the game.

    The Trail Blazers sank only one field goal in their first 10 attempts until Miller connected on an and-one shot up close with a little more than three minutes remaining in the period to end the dry spell. The Trail Blazers missed 13 of 16 shot attempts in the quarter, including a 0-for-7 mark from three-point range en route to a 13-point period.

    In the fourth and in transition, Miller tried to kick out to Matthews in the corner. The pass sailed high, but, in one motion, Matthews jumped and saved the ball to Aldridge in the lane, who turned and hit a short shot to cut the deficit to 10 points with a little less than three minutes to go.

    Wallace later slashed through the lane off the wing and cashed in a lay-up that was followed up with another lay-in by Miller off an offensive rebound, as Portland capped a 16-2 rally and pulled to within six at 82-76.

    "It's a game of runs," Matthews said about the fourth-quarter surge. "Patty (Mills) came in and hit that three in the corner and it kind of took the lid off for a second. We starting playing desperate. It's tough to play like that for a full 48 minutes because we were gambling a lot."

    The Hawks, however, refused to cede ground, as Crawford pocketed a three-ball and sank four-straight free throws to extend Atlanta's advantage to 89-78 with 26.9 seconds left.

    "We need to find a rhythm," Camby said. "It's hard to with so many games coming up, we haven't had a lot of practice time, and that's when you develop a continuity out there on the basketball court. We had a couple walkthroughs, nothing really live going up and down for us to get familiar. Some of the learning has to come on the fly."

    Portland will wrap up its five-game homestand on Tuesday, when the Trail Blazers take on the Houston Rockets (29-31).

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