Trail Blazers vs Hawks Monday, 11/12/12 AT 07:00PM

Trail Blazers Storm Back, Eventually Fall Against Hawks 95-87

11/12/12
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 3.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    Portland fell behind early in the game and roared back in the second half but eventually fell to the Hawks 95-87. JJ Hickson led the way for the Trail Blazers with 19 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks.  For the fourth game in a row, the Trail Blazers fell late. However, unlike the previous three losses, it was their offense that failed them and not their defense.

    "We buckled down defensively," said Terry Stotts. "We held them under 45% shooting. Our defense put ourselves in a position to win a game, which up to this point we really hadn't done."

    Portland was lost in the first half and the Hawks who had not shot over 50% in any of their previous games had done just that in the first half. Hickson was extremely active on the boards and was keeping Portland in the game. Josh Smith was hitting his midrange jumpers and the Trail Blazers were losing Hawks players, specifically Kyle Korver in transition.

    "I don't know the reason for it, but they definitely took advantage of it and we put ourselves in a hole again where we had to fight back. We just weren't able to come out on top again," said Damian Lillard.

    Coming into the game the Hawks had been one of the league's best in forcing turnovers from their opponents. Atlanta was fifth in turnover percentage and Portland came into the game having taken excellent care of the ball in their previous six games as they were 4th in turnover percentage and were averaging 13.5 turnovers a game. By halftime they had 10 and Atlanta's lead had gotten as big as 15.

    "That's one of their strengths defensively, creating turnovers. And we fell into that," said Stotts.

    A great third quarter got the Trail Blazers back in it. Again, as it seems has always happened this season when the Trail Blazers have a big third quarter, it was Nicolas Batum who set the tone. He scored 11 of his 19 points in the third quarter, got two rebounds and a steal in the third period. Along with Batum's excellent play, Hickson continued giving extra effort on the glass and was finding success from the field as well. Hickson said he has accepted his role on this Trail Blazers team.

    "I know I'm the only guy on this team that plays the way I play," said Hickson. "I just took it upon myself to be that energy guy."

    Portland entered the fourth quarter down by eight points. They scratched and clawed their way back by getting stops on the defensive end and gave them a chance to win late. Joel Freeland, Ronnie Price and Meyers Leonard all played important minutes at the start of the fourth quarter to help get Portland those stops even if Portland couldn't get it going offensively. Down the stretch, they went to their all-star LaMarcus Aldridge who had been quiet from the field despite displaying his playmaking ability for others by setting a career-high with eight assists. A JJ Hickson and-1 tied the game for the Trail Blazers with 6:05 left and a pair of Aldridge free-throws gave Portland their first lead of the game at the 5:40 mark of the fourth.

    After taking the lead Portland's offense failed them and a big plays including an offensive foul away from the ball on Nicolas Batum and a goal tend on JJ Hickson with a minute left swung the momentum in Atlanta's favor late. They could not answer the few buckets Atlanta made in the final four minutes. Lillard and Aldridge were the guys that took the shots late and those are guys that Portland would usually want taking those shots but tonight they just didn't fall. Aldridge also missed a pair of free throws with 36 second left when they were down four that effectively sealed it for Atlanta. Portland collectively shot 36% from the field and 26% from behind the line. The combination of turnovers and poor shooting proved all too costly tonight.

    "If I made those shots, you probably wouldn't even be asking me about it," said Lillard.

    Although the Trail Blazers lost, it was an encouraging sign for them that they put themselves in a position to win with their defense, something that couldn't be said in their three previous losses. Damian Lillard sees that the team has been improving even if such things aren't the case in the loss column.

    "A lot of people probably don't see it, but every game we get a little bit closer," said Lillard. "Once we get to that point where we don't put ourselves in a hole to start with, then that's when we'll start winning games.

    Hopefully for them they can start on the right foot against the Kings tomorrow. Portland is flying to Sacramento tonight and play at 7PM.  The game will air on CSNNW and on the radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.



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