Trail Blazers hold even, but slump to Hawks late


99. 34. 105. 125. Final

The Portland Trail Blazers led after every quarter except the one that matters, and the Atlanta Hawks collected their 18th-straight win as the Blazers fell, 105-99. Instead of a play-by-play, let’s get through what the Trail Blazers did right and wrong:


They went straight to LaMarcus Aldridge and continued to do so as he remained hot. The Hawks’ defense was exceptional, but Aldridge was in a zone that Head Coach Terry Stotts recognized. Aldridge logged heavy minutes, even though he had four fouls by the end of the third quarter.

They played spirited, disciplined defense for three quarters and change. This was no simple feat since the Hawks went deep into their guard rotation for a speed advantage. The Hawks swarmed and the Trail Blazers swarmed back.

They hit their free throws. They sank a nearly perfect 10-11. Interestingly, all 11 were taken between just Aldridge and Wesley Matthews, and although the difference in team fouls was only three (Portland: 20, Atlanta: 17), the Hawks had twice as many free throw attempts. It was an uphill battle, but they gave themselves a chance.


They turned the ball over 17 times. The Hawks’ defensive pressure was incredible, so there was little room for sloppiness. Although many of the TOs were forced, some were the result of rushed, cross-court passes.

They got lost on switches and left too many Hawks open at the perimeter; Paul Millsap (2-5) and Mike Scott (3-3) in particular. The Hawks shot nearly 50 percent as a team from deep because the Trail Blazers were often late to step out.

They faded near the end of the game. The Trail Blazers had led after every single quarter in this one. Going into the fourth, they were up by five points. However; just three minutes later, the Hawks led by five of their own. That brief lapse put them in the unfortunately familiar position of playing catch up.

The player rotation was too shallow. Okay, I know, there aren’t an infinite number of minutes to share, but Thomas Robinson should have at least gotten to sniff the court when Portland’s energy flagged. The Trail Blazers are shorthanded as it is, and playing an injured Chris Kaman 25 minutes when there were capable bodies ready to contribute was questionable.


LaMarcus Aldridge is an All-Star, but these last three games showed why he could be an MVP. Since tearing a ligament in his thumb, he is averaging 33.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. He’s done everything a person can do to carry their team, and still the Trail Blazers are 1-2 in that span as Damian Lillard continues to slump, Nicolas Batum and Kaman limp around, and the moxie that defined the Trail Blazers’ early season has gone.

Damian Lillard was pissed. He was hurt. He didn’t like the fact that he was left off the All-Star team. Unfortunately, his shooting was not as hot as the fire within him. He shot 1-9 from deep and finished the game with only 13 points. His 11 assists matched a season-high, but let’s not be coy. With 30 percent shooting, six turnovers, and not a single trip to the line, this was a poor outing.

Wesley Matthews struggled as well, but was aggressive in the post, as expected. There were a few 3-point opportunities late in the fourth that he would like to have back. He finished with the 16 points we would anticipate, but they did not come as effortlessly as one would hope. Credit to the Hawks’ defense.

Nicolas Batum aggravated his injured wrist early in the game and was somewhat of a wallflower for the remainder. He is hurt and he needs to rest.

Chris Kaman is hurt and he needs to rest (is there an echo in here?).

Steve Blake came off the bench for eight points and seven assists, including an insane three to end the first quarter that ESPN’s play-by-play deemed a “running jumpshot.”

There’s not much to say: the Trail Blazers are hurting physically and mentally. Something has to change,and if nobody’s going to rest, then the healing will be slow. The Trail Blazers limp into Milwaukee to take on the Bucks tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. PST.

Next: Errick McCollum breaks CBA scoring record