Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge returned from a seven-game
absence with a big game, leading the Blazers past the Hawks 100-85
on Thursday at Philips Arena.
Aldridge suffered a back injury after an ugly fall March 12 against
the San Antonio Spurs. On Thursday, he scored a game-high 25 points
and pulled down 16 rebounds in 32 minutes of action.
"We're a whole different team with (Aldridge) back," Portland point
guard Damian Lillard said. "He's our best player. He brings balance
to our team. We had an inside presence and we were able to play
inside-out, like we have all year. I just think with him out there,
we just got more quality shots."
The banged-up Hawks, who were without guard Kyle Korver (back) and
center Pero Antic (ankle), got very little going on the inside and
got off to a cold start from the outside, missing eight of their
first nine 3-point attempts. They were down 53-37 at halftime.
Atlanta forward DeMarre Carroll sparked a third-quarter rally and
got the Hawks back in the game with a 3-pointer that cut the
Blazers' lead to 58-52 with 6:55 left in the quarter.
Portland answered with a 13-0 run and took a 78-64 lead into the
The Hawks made a couple of runs in the fourth quarter. Jumpers from
Hawks center Mike Muscala and guard Lou Williams cut the Portland
lead to six with seven minutes to play. But Portland always had an
answer; most of the time it came from Aldridge.
A 3-point play from Aldridge ended an early fourth-quarter Hawks
flurry and pushed the Blazers' lead to double figures. A 3-pointer
from Portland forward Nicolas Batum and putback from Aldridge
squashed the final challenge from the Hawks.
Portland coach Terry Stotts said he didn't know how much Aldridge
would be able to go in Friday's game at Chicago. Aldridge played in
planned eight-minute spurts against the Hawks.
"I think that helped him, knowing when he was going to go back in,"
Stotts said. "It allowed him with the heat packs to anticipate and
prepare for when he was going back in."
All five Portland starters finished in double figures in points,
with Lillard scoring 21.
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The Blazers (46-27) are one four teams within two games of each
other for the last four spots in the Western Conference. Portland is
fifth, four games behind the Houston Rockets for the fourth spot.
The Hawks (31-40) lead the New York Knicks by a game and a half for
the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta has been
on a dismal stretch: 6-19 in the past 25 games.
"We're fighting ourselves and digging ourselves out of a hole,"
Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. "We need to be disciplined and
focused. In those stretches where we're not, it can hurt us and it
can bite us."
Point guard Jeff Teague led the Hawks with 22 points.
"We're all professionals," Teague said. "We've all be in similar
situations as we're in. We just have to stay positive."
NOTES: Atlanta C Pero Antic (ankle) and G Kyle Korver (back) sat out
Thursday's games with injuries. ... Portland F LaMarcus Aldridge
(back) returned from a seven-game absence. The Trail Blazers went
3-4 in Aldridge's absence. ... Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell
Wilson was in attendance. ... The Hawks, who lost Wednesday at
Minnesota, are 6-13 on the second night of back-to-back games this
season. ... The Trail Blazers finish their five-game road trip at
Chicago on Friday night.
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