Trail Blazers vs Thunder Friday, 04/01/11 AT 07:00PM

Hornet Reserves Emerge, Clinch Tiebreaker

  1. Written by: Grant Lucas  / avg. rating: 3.5

    In what was viewed as a playoff matchup against the New Orleans Hornets, the Portland Trail Blazers (43-32) had a chance to go up by two games in the Western Conference standings.

    Trailing by as many as 11 points, the Hornets (43-32) surged back with a 21-5 run thanks to 10 fourth-quarter points by Willie Green that put New Orleans ahead for good.

    Portland put a scare into New Orleans, however, narrowing a nine-point deficit to three late in the game. After Jarrett Jack missed a three-pointer, the Trail Blazers had a chance to cut into the lead even more, but Miller lost the ball on the other end, resulting in a turnover and two free throws for Landry.

    Wesley Matthews made a three-pointer with 10 seconds left in the game, but another pair of foul shots by Landry put the game away 95-91.

    The victory moved the Hornets into a tie with Portland for the sixth spot in the Western Conference, but New Orleans owns the head-to-head tiebreaker by virute of a 3-1 record against the Trail Blazers this season.

    "We dropped it," Head Coach Nate McMillan said. "It's still in our hands. We dropped this game and now we need to go home. We know what we need to do. Every game is important, we don't have the tiebreaker against this team, but we do against some other teams."

    LaMarcus Aldridge tallied game-highs of 24 points and 15 rebounds, Andre Miller had 19 points and five assists and Gerald Wallace posted 14 points and 10 boards. Patty Mills added 13 points off the bench, shooting 5-for-5 from the floor.

    "No loss feels good," Wallace said. "This one hurts. Especially (because it's) a game that we felt like we controlled for the first quarter and a half. We let them get the momentum going into halftime. In the second half, they took control and forced us to play back on our heels. They pretty much did whatever they wanted to do offensively."

    New Orleans was led by Carl Landry, who finished with 21 points and six rebounds. Marco Belinelli recorded 16 points, Emeka Okafor chipped in with 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks and Chris Paul put up 11 points, 12 assists, seven boards and four steals.

    "We just wanted to turn it up," said Green, who finished with 12 points. "This team is in front of us in the playoff race and it's going to be a dog fight the rest of the season. We came out in the second half with the mentality that we have to go get it, so we went out and got it."

    Portland shot 50 percent from the field, but the Hornets got to the line 13 more times on the night, outscoring the Trail Blazers 22-12 from the charity stripe, as the Trail Blazers lost for just the third time (30-3) when registering a higher shooting percentage than their opponent.

    "We've had this situation where we come off the road and this first game back has been tough for us and I felt that tonight," New Orleans head coach Monty Williams said. "We didn't have our normal energy, whether it's from the time change or whatever, but I thought the way we finished said a lot about our defense because it was our defense that got us going. We have to dig deep."

    Not only that, but New Orleans clamped down on defense in the second half, forcing nine turnovers in the third and fourth quarters after Portland gave the ball up just three times in the first half, converting them into 11 points.

    "The keys to winning the game; they beat us in that category," McMillan said. "The boards, free throws and taking care of the ball. You can't have those mistakes going down the stretch."

    The Trail Blazer reserves outscored their counterparts 17-4 in the first half, but the Hornets' bench came alive after the break, putting up 20 points compared to Portland's eight.

    "I thought we played two different halves," McMillan said. "First half, we were pretty good, the second half we didn't get as much going. We started with some turnovers. We've been streaky. We need both units and everybody playing well."

    Belinelli canned three consecutive shots from three-point range and had 11 first-quarter points to help the Hornets grab a 23-19 lead, but Portland responded with a 12-2 run to close out the opening period, as the Trail Blazers carried a 31-25 advantage into the second. Mills later accounted for 10 of 14 Portland points en route to a 42-32 lead as Portland hit 65.5 percent of its attempts.

    New Orleans strung 10 straight points together to trim the deficit to 46-45 late in the first half but still trailed 50-48 at the break, as Portland received 17 bench points - 10 by Mills - compared to the Hornets' four.

    Blazers went 1-for-8 from the floor in the waning moments of the second quarter and scored just four points in the final 5:48 of the half.

    The Hornets found a rhythm in the third quarter, taking a 61-60 edge after a Belinelli trey, but the Trail Blazers answered with seven straight points, including a close look by Miller to put Portland back on top by six.

    Green gave New Orleans the lead early in the final quarter, finishing a fastbreak with a lay-in after a Jarrett Jack steal. Soon after, the Hornets made it a four-point game when Green buried a three-pointer that elicited a Trail Blazer timeout and polished off a 14-4 rally. The run extended to 21-5 when Jack pocketed a long two-pointer, giving New Orleans a nine-point advantage.

    Miller trimmed the deficit to three points after Miller flipped in a driving lay-up with a little more than a minute to go in the game. Landry, however, drew a foul on Aldridge and hit one of two free throws to make it a two-possession game with 46.7 seconds remaining.

    After Miller made one of two from the foul stripe, Jack put up an errant three-pointer. Miller brought up back up the floor and tried to get a quick two, but he lost it. Landry picked it up, was fouled and sank a pair of free throws.

    Matthews drilled a three-ball for Portland, but Landry made two more free throws to seal the win.

    "It was even until the fourth quarter," Miller said. "They got into the penalty and get some key rebounds. It was pretty much a free throw and turnover game. That's how it played out. They played a good game down the stretch."

    The Trail Blazers return to Portland on Friday night to open up a three-game homestand against the Oklahoma City Thunder (49-24) for the fourth and final game of their regular season series.

    "I think we're all right," Wallace said. "We've just got to mentally get stronger. Right now we're having some relapses and some setbacks, as far as offensively and defensively, especially at crucial moments of the game. We just have to zone in and get more focused on what we're doing."

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