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Trail Blazers Fall In Brooklyn 98-85

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 4.0

    The Trail Blazers (6-7) fell in the first game of their seven-game Eastern Conference road trip in Brooklyn, falling to the Nets (8-4) 98-85. Their All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge did not play in this game as he was a game-time decision with back spasms. The Trail Blazers led at half and were tied after three quarters but the Nets pulled away from them in the end.

    With their All-Star out, Meyers Leonard was inserted into the starting line-up at center and JJ Hickson slid to the power forward spot. The early returns on Leonard's second career start were good. Leonard had 12 points in the first half and everything was coming fairly easy. He was getting into the paint and the Trail Blazers were finding him around the rim.  Leonard was showing a nice touch around the rim hitting lots of baby hooks and floaters in the paint. The most emphatic of Leonard's 12 points came on this dunk off a pass from Ronnie Price.

    Despite the fact that Brook Lopez was getting some good looks and Joe Johnson was scoring efficiently, the Trail Blazers still managed to have a four-point lead at halftime.

    Portland's backcourt was a major factor in their good start. Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard each had 11 points apiece and were a combined five of eight from three-point land. Neither team was shooting a particularly great percentage from the field but it seemed that the Trail Blazers were working to get betters shots early. The ball-movement on offense was very crisp and it was creating a lot of good looks close to the rim for Portland. They weren't winning a lot of stat categories but the Trail Blazers still maintained a lead.

    The second half was when things started to come to a halt. The Nets came into the game playing the slowest pace in the NBA. The Trail Blazers had scored 50 points in the first half but things came to a grinding halt in the second half. The Trail Blazers had trouble replicating the same type of ball movement they had in the first half and settled for long jumpers. The Nets have a very big team from the starting line-up to their bench and the way the refs were calling the game, very loosely, the Nets took advantage.

    "They were playing physical and they weren't calling for a lot of fouls. They were able to ratchet it up," Terry Stotts said.

    Despite the fact that the Trail Blazers weren't getting the same quality looks in the third quarter that they had in the first half, they were still tied going into the fourth quarter. They started the fourth quarter with a unit of mostly bench players. Unfortunately, against a very deep team, they were not able to keep up. The Nets style of play, their depth and their bulk proved to be too much, especially when the Trail Blazers were missing Aldridge. The Nets out rebounded the the Trail Blazers 52-38 and Reggie Evans was huge for the Nets off the bench in the second half in that regard. Evans had 14 rebounds off the bench in 23 minutes. JJ Hickson tried to do his part on the glass and came out with a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds. However, Hickson's effort as well as Damian Lillard tying a career-high with six rebounds, was not enough.

    "The rebounding obviously hurt us and the extra possessions. They didn't convert a lot of their extra possessions. It wore us down a little mentally," Stotts said. "They're a big, physical team."

    The Trail Blazers could not find offense late in the game and the Nets must be commended for their defense. Their physical style of play threw off the Trail Blazers and ultimately, it was a good veteran team shutting down a young, not so deep Trail Blazers team missing their All-Star power forward. It was a great effort for three quarters, but they were brought to a halt by a team that specializes in slowing things down in the fourth. Joe Johnson got them going early and finished with 21 points and four assists. Deron Williams recovered from a rough first half to get a double-double of 15 points and 12 assists while Kris Humpries had a double-double of his own with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

    The Trail Blazers will head to Detroit tonight before taking on the Pistons tomorrow. That game will start at 4:30 and will be shown on CSNNW. It can also be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

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