The Portland Trail Blazers moved to 42-19 on the season and 24-8 at home with a 102-78 wire-to-wire victory against the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd of 20,043 at the Moda Center.
“A really good bounce back win for us, especially going out on the road,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “After the Laker game and a disappointment with how we played, it was a good defensive effort. We shared the ball. Just an all-around good game for us in a lot of ways.”
After getting off to one of their worst starts in recent memory Monday night in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Trail Blazers looked determined to make sure the issue wouldn’t repeat itself on Wednesday.
“We were playing against a similar team [to the Lakers],” said Wesley Matthews. “They shoot threes, they run, they get up in transition. They have a lot of guys who can shoot at a high clip. If they get hot, if you give any team confidence in this league, anything can happen. We just saw that against the Lakers. We wanted to correct ourselves on what we did the other night and we were able to do that.”
Portland held Atlanta to just 23 percent shooting in the first quarter one on side of the ball while shooting 46 percent on the other. The Trail Blazers also won the first quarter rebounding battle 15-10, all of which helped the home team take a 29-19 lead into the second quarter.
Things only got worse for the Hawks in the second half. Playing without All-Star power forward Paul Milsap (knee), Atlanta struggled to find consistent scoring, following up a five field goals in the first quarter with just six in the second.
Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers shot an impressive 7 of 15 from the three-point line and continued to stretch their rebounding advantage thanks in part to Nicolas Batum, who pulled down 13 rebound in the first half (the Hawks as a team only had 19). By time the intermission arrived, Portland had a 56-38 victory despite LaMarcus Aldridge going 0 of 6 in the first half.
“My timing is just off,” said Aldridge, who finished the night 1 for 13 from the field. “Since coming back, I haven’t felt like my timing has been great. I was really trying to find it in my minutes that I was out there and they were double-teaming some and were trying to dig a lot, so I was trying to force the issue on my rhythm, but I definitely didn’t find it tonight. I’ll find it tomorrow at practice.”
Even with Aldridge struggling, the Trail Blazers would come out early in the third quarter to put the Hawks away for good. Portland would lead by as many as 24 in the third and 29 in the fourth, allowing for Stotts to keep all of his starters under 30 minutes while still coasting to a comfortable victory.
“There was a lot to like,” said Stotts. “We rebounded the ball well, we took away transition. When we switched their pick and rolls I thought LA in particular and our big guys did a good job of containing Teague in his penetration. Our rim protection, when he did penetrate, Robin [Lopez] or LA or Meyers [Leonard] was there.”
With the game well in hand, the only suspense in the second half was whether Kyle Korver’s streak of 127 consecutive games with a made three-pointer would come to an end. But with the game all but decided, Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer opted to keep Korver on the bench rather than chase what is already an NBA record.
“He’s a competitive guy,” said Budenholzer of Korver. “He’s going to want to be ready to play our next game. It’s a heck of a streak. We all feel fortunate to be part of it. He’s an amazing competitor, an amazing shooter and we’ll all move on.”
The Hawks shot just 4 of 27 as a team from three, with Korver missing all five of his attempts while being hounded defensively by Matthews.
“Just make it uncomfortable for him,” said Matthews of his approach to guarding Korver. “He likes space. I had the pleasure to be on the other side when he was on my team in Utah and I saw what happened when he got space. Kyle can light it up any given night and I was trying to make sure it wasn’t tonight.”
Batum went as far as calling Matthews Korver’s “boyfriend” for the night, in that wherever Korver went, Matthews went, too.
“It was just a bad game all around for us,” said Korver. “I’m a little bummed for sure, but it was good while it lasted. I think someday we’ll look back on it and be proud, but obviously it was just a tough game all around for us and that was part of it.”
While one noteworthy streak came to an end, Batum’s run of double-digit rebounding games continued unabated with the forward setting a new career-high with 18 boards.
“Like I’ve been saying the last two games, just try to crash the boards a little more than I used to,” said Batum, who has pulled down 49 rebounds in his last three games. “I try help the big inside because he does a good job protecting the rim. Sometimes Robin tries to block the shot so I have to rotate and get a rebound.”
With his career-high, Batum becomes the fifth Trail Blazers since 1985 and the seventh player in the NBA this year to put up three straight games of at least 15 rebounds.
Next up, the Trail Blazers begin a five-game road trip in Dallas versus the Mavericks.
“It’s going to be a really tough road trip for us,” said Aldridge, “but if we go out and take care of business and keep playing defense like we did tonight, anything is possible.”
Tipoff is scheduled 5:30 PM