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Trail Blazers Come Up Short In Big Easy

03/10/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    The Trail Blazers (29-33) were not able to make up ground in the playoff race and lost a close one in New Orelans to the Hornets (22-42) 98-96. Damian Lillard scored 20 points for the sixth straight game to go along with eight rebounds and two assists. But ultimately, it wasn't enough.

    "We were in a position to win a couple of times," Terry Stotts said. "Either we didn't come up with a rebound or get a stop that we needed. We were ten down, battled back. It's disappointing to be in that position a couple of times and not get the win."

    "We didn't close it out. We had a chance," Wesley Matthews, who scored 24 points including six threes, said. "We had opportunities with the lead under a minute. We had two opportunities to seal the game off and make it a free-throw game, but we didn't. We let one slide."

    The Trail Blazers were gifted a poor 1-9 start from the Hornets. However, the Trail Blazers didn't impede the Hornets from getting good looks and eventually the percentages even themselves out. It was a game of runs. JJ Hickson (14 points, 14 rebounds) had 10 points and helped buoy the Trail Blazers, but Greivis Vasquez's start set a tone for the Hornets. Vasquez  (20 points, five assists) had nine points on four of five shooting and that early start got him into a rhythm that he kept for most of the night. The Trail Blazers extended their lead to nine with 2:02 left but the Hornets would close the quarter on a 9-0 run. The night continued in a similar fashion.

    In the second quarter the Hornets,  behind solid bench contributions from Ryan Anderson (20 points, 13 rebounds, four threes) and Roger Mason (10 points) and 10 points from Anthony Davis (18 points, 10 rebounds) dominated. The Hornets had the only 30-plus point quarter of the game as they hit four threes and scored 31 points. Conversely, the Trail Blazers struggled from deep, but what was really hurting them was the Hornets getting extra possessions by hitting the offensive boards. The Hornets held a 10-4 advantage on the glass at halftime and a nine point lead.

    The Trail Blazers started to play much better in the second half and it began with Wesley Matthews. Matthews helped jump start the Trail Blazers on the perimeter, injecting a much needed dose of three-point shooting. He hit two threes in the third quarter and the Trail Blazers looked like they had found a rhythm. With Matthews hitting threes, Lillard attacking the basket and LaMarcus Aldridge getting to the foul line, the Trail Blazers were able to tie the game with 2:45 left. However, the Hornets were able to make a run and push their lead back to seven by quarters end. Once again, the glaring problem was the defensive glass, as the Hornets continued to open up their offensive rebounding advantage.

    The Trail Blazers, of course, made their run in the fourth quarter. Down by seven, Eric Maynor (seven points, four assists) hit his first three of the game to cut the lead to four. A Matthews three, his third of the game at that point, cut the lead to three with 10:18 left. However, the Trail Blazers continued to struggle guarding the three-point line. The Hornets answered with a barrage of threes that would push the deficit back to 10 with 6:53 left.

    The Trail Blazers needed stops and they were starting to get them as the game came to a close. The extra possessions, it seemed, were no longer. Matthews kept his hot streak going as it seemed he was going to do anything not to let the Trail Blazers lose this game. A three by Matthews completed 14-3 run to give the Trail Blazers the lead with 2:58 left. In the end, the extra possessions and conceding three-point shots ended up being the daggers that did the Trail Blazers in.

    Anthony Davis had two offensive rebounds in the final 2:14 that led to five New Orleans points. The biggest of those was one that ended up in a mad scramble and a wide-open three by Ryan Anderson with 15.6 second left to give the Hornets a two-point lead. But, with a great play designed by Terry Stotts, the Trail Blazers got a wide-open look for Damian Lillard for a three that he hit, giving the lead back to Portland. But, on the ensuing play, Vasquez drove the lane and found a cutting Anderson who scored and was fouled by Jared Jeffries. Anderson made the free-throw, putting the Hornets up by two with 1.8 second left. The Trail Blazers ran a play that Wesley Matthews a corner-three that was contested well by Anthony Davis and it clanged off the back rim.

    The Trail Blazers played a much better second half on both ends. However, they struggled to correct the two things that plagued them the whole game by allowing the Hornets too many offensive rebounds and too many good looks from deep. The Hornets had a 9-2 advantage on the glass and shot five of eight (62.5 percent) from deep. Both of those things coming back to bite Portland in the final minutes. The Hornets shot 11 for 20 (55 percent) from three on the night and had a 19-6 advantage on the offensive glass and a 48-30 advantage overall.

    "We didn't control the ball very well until we started blitzing Greivis (Vasquez). When three-point shooters get hot, they create problems. Ryan Anderson got hot, and he spaces the floor for them really well. It was a tie game and they hit three three's. When three-point shooters get hot, they create problems," Stotts said.

    "We won the last game. Tonight, it was just one of those games where they made some shots. They got on a run. They made their run. It was kind of a game of runs. We just came up short," said Lillard.

    Despite the great play of Matthews and Lillard in the second half to mount the comeback, the Hornets ability to make the winning plays, mostly in the form of grabbing loose balls on their end, stung the Trail Blazers.

    They return now to Portland now to face the tough Memphis Grizzlies (42-19), who came back from a 17-point deficit to defeat the Trail Blazers on Wednesday. Tip-off is set for 7PM and the game will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM. 

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