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Road Trip Winds Down In Big Easy

02/13/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    One game stands between the Trail Blazers (25-27) and the All-Star break. After losing a tough one last night in Miami, the Trail Blazers are in New Orleans to face the Hornets (14-38). Tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 PM and the game will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

        •    For three quarters the Trail Blazers outplayed and the Hornets in mid-December. The Trail Blazers never trailed in that early season match-up but they did give up a 14-point lead as Grevis Vasquez (23 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds) and Ryan Anderson (26 points, 7-10 3PT) led a New Orleans comeback. However, all hopes of a comeback and sending the game to overtime were dashed by Damian Lillard's first career game winner as time expired. JJ Hickson had a big game with 24 points and 16 rebounds in 30 minutes while LaMarcus Aldridge added  20 points. Luke Babbitt was also a big factor throughout the game as he scored 10 points and played 26 minutes as Wesley Matthews left the game after a minute of play, forcing Stotts to juggle the line-ups around.
      
     •    Damian Lillard was fantastic last night in Miami, scoring 33 points and bouncing back from his career-worst shooting night in Orlando the night before. Although Lillard was fantastic last night, LaMarcus Aldridge has been the steadying hand throughout the road trip, even though the Trail Blazers have been unable to capitalize on Aldridge's great play and turn that into wins. So far on the trip, Aldridge's numbers have been as good as you could ask for, the All-Star is averaging 27.4 points, nine rebounds and three assists. For the Trail Blazers to get a win to snap their four-game losing streak and end on a high-note before the All-Star break, the Trail Blazers must continue to feed Aldridge.
      
     •    The status of the Hornets's Eric Gordon is up in the air. In the 18 games Gordon has played in, the Hornets are 10-8. Gordon had knee surgery last year and sat out much of the early season this year working back from his injury. Gordon gives the Hornets something they don't have otherwise without him: a productive one-on-one scorer. However, Gordon has been on a restriction not allowing him to play on the second nights of back-to-backs and he is still listed as questionable for tonight's match-up. Gordon's shooting numbers from the field have not been what you expect from a max-level player (40 percent from the floor, 35 percent from three) but he survives the occasional shooting slump by attempting at over five free throws per contest.
      
     •    As far as Portland's playoff chances are concerned, they cannot let this game slip away against a Western Conference opponent. Of the teams that are 6th-11th in the standings, the Trail Blazers are the only team with record against the Western Conference above .500 (16-15).  The Lakers are closing fast and other teams in the playoff hunt got good wins (Houston win at Golden State, Utah win at home against Oklahoma City) last night. The conference record becomes incredible important, especially if Portland splits the season series' with the teams it is competing against, as conference record is the tie-breaker immediately following head-to-head winning percentage.

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