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Trail Blazers comeback bid falls short

  1. Written by: KevinHudson

    Portland's losing streak to the Atlanta Hawks extended to six consecutive games Wednesday, as the Trail Blazers fell 92-89 at Philips Arena to slide to 1-3 on their current road trip.

    Portland (8-6) trailed by nine points at halftime after shooting 36 percent from the field in the first half, including 0-for-7 from three-point range. The Trail Blazers clawed their way back to take the lead at 62-61 with four minutes remaining in the third but a 14-0 Atlanta run to end the quarter had the Hawks up 75-62 headed into the final stanza.

    Rookie Nolan Smith started off the fourth with a three-pointer from the left wing that sparked a 13-0 Portland run to tie the game at 75-75 with seven minutes remaining. A Jamal Crawford three-pointer gave Portland a 78-77 lead less than a minute later.

    But back-to-back buckets from Joe Johnson, including his fourth three of the night, put the Hawks up 82-78 and from there they held on, as missed shots and free throws over the final two minutes doomed the Trail Blazers comeback bid and sealed the final margin.

    "Right now it seems like we’re playing harder when we get down instead of playing that way from the beginning of the game. That makes it tougher on us to come back and pull out games," Crawford said. "We just need to have a good practice tomorrow and play harder next time out."

    Portland shot 38 percent from the field in the contest, including 26.3 percent from three-point range, and 70 percent from the charity stripe. LaMarcus Aldridge (10-of-19), Kurt Thomas (4-of-6) and Craig Smith (3-of-6) were the only Trail Blazers to shoot better than 40 percent on the night.

    "We’re not playing as well as we can right now on both ends on the floor, and that’s hurting us." Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "On offense, (Raymond Felton) has to make the necessary reads to get the ball down low, especially to LaMarcus (Aldridge). He just has to make his reads when the double-teams come."

    Atlanta (11-4) got a game-high 24 points from Johnson, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, and Josh Smith added 17 points, 11 rebounds for his team's lone double-double.

    "We have some guys that are really gutting it out. Joe is playing at a very high level, I think Josh is playing at a high level," said Atlanta coach Larry Drew. "We have guys that are really stepping their games up...We’re just finding a way."

    Jamal Crawford led Portland with 22 points on 8-of-22 shooting and added five assists without turning the ball over. Raymond Felton notched a game-high eight assists while turning the ball over once and scoring nine points on 3-of-9 from the floor.

    Aldridge logged Portland's only double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. He also dished out four assists, grabbed two steals and blocked a shot.

    "We have to figure out where our problems are and correct them. One day it’s one thing and then it’s another," Aldridge said. "We’ll get things figured out, but we just have to hurry up and get it done."

    Kurt Thomas gave another solid performance replacing injured center Marcus Camby in the starting lineup, scoring eight points while grabbing nine boards. Craig Smith contributed nine points and three rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench.

    Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum left the game in the first half after being poked in the left eye by Hawks forward Tracy McGrady. X-rays taken on the eye came back negative for an orbital fracture. He is listed as day-to-day, though the forward said on his twitter account that he would be ready to play against Toronto on Friday.

    Portland faces Toronto Friday, 4 p.m., on Comcast SportsNet and 750 AM The Game, before wrapping up their road trip in Detroit, Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

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