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Trail Blazers Play Fourth Game in Five Nights In Atlanta

03/22/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    After putting on a dominant performance against the Chicago Bulls last night, the Portland Trail Blazers (32-36) take on the Atlanta Hawks (38-30) tonight at 4:30 PM. Tip-off wil be shown on CSNNW and the game can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM. Atlanta has been notoriously tough for the Trail Blazers in recent years, as they have lost in their last four meetings at Phillips Arena.

        •    The Trail Blazers were able to bounce back in Chicago after a heartbreaking loss on Monday and a game that featured an eight-point quarter on Tuesday. Most importantly, even though nobody would confuse the Bulls with a great NBA offense, they capitalized on their stops and were relentless in getting out in transition. The Trail Blazers were able to get the game up to 92 possessions in Chicago and even though they had 16 turnovers, they gave themselves more opportunities with their defense.
     
      •    The Trail Blazers and Hawks met very early on in the season in November. The Hawks were able to win in the Rose Garden, 95-87. The Trail Blazers were mired in a four game losing streak and the Hawks game at home was not a refuge from that. The Trail Blazers struggled to stop the Hawks all night. What the Trail Blazers, and frankly a lot of teams, had trouble with was the combination of Josh Smith and Al Horford. Smith and Horford combine to make one of the league's most formidable front courts on both ends and they also have great chemistry. As much as the basketball junkie loves passing bigs, Smith and Horford offer one of the league's great tandems of passing big men. Smith had 19 points, 11 rebounds and three assist while Horford had 15 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. As odd as it sounds, one of the Hawks go-to plays down the stretch of games is, to exploit the passing skills of their bigs, a pick and roll with Smith and Horford. It's quite deadly and few, if any teams have the type of personnel to run a 4-5 pick and roll. JJ Hickson, coming off a career-high 21 rebounds last night in Chicago, had a monster game of 19 points and 18 rebounds in the previous meeting while Nicolas Batum (19 points) and Wesley Matthews (17 points) had good games from the wings. Damian Lillard only scored 12 points while Aldridge had 14 points, six rebounds and a career-high eight assists. One last note on the Hawks, Kyle Korver, who scored 16 points including four threes in November, shoots 48.8 percent from three for his career against the Trail Blazers
       
    •    LaMarcus Aldridge has been fantastic. You could copy and paste that last sentence and use it for the entire season, but Aldridge has taken his game to another level so far the last two weeks. In six games over the past two weeks, which included a Western Conference Player of The Week award, Aldridge has been brilliant, averaging 27 points on 53.5 percent shooting along with 11.5 rebounds, three assists and two blocks per game. Despite the fact Aldridge has been dealing with nagging injuries to his ankle, left hand and migraine headaches last week, he continues to display why he was an All-Star. His consistency all year as been a rock for Portland to lean on, but right now he is playing some of the best basketball of his career.
     
      •    Tonight's match-up between Jeff Teague and Damian Lillard should be another great point guard battle. Teague has been solid this season for the Hawks, averaging 14.6 points and dishing 7.1 assists per game in a bigger role. Teague had to take more responsibility in running the team after the trade of Joe Johnson and even more after Lou Williams tore his ACL earlier in the year. Lillard and Teague didn't have great games in Portland but the match-up will certainly be an entertaining one. Both players had subpar shooting nights, so look for both of them to turn that around tonight. Damian Lillard had another great March performance with 24 points and seven assists last night in Chicago. Lillard is averaging 22.3 points per game, 7.4 assists while shooting 49.7 percent from the field and a scorching hot 43.3 percent from three on 6.1 attempts per game in March.

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