Blazers Finish Sweep of Hornets
The Trail Blazers did what they wanted to do on Thursday night at the Rose Garden- it just took them a tad longer to put this game away than they expected. Most of the credit (or blame) for that belongs to Monty Williams and his gritty New Orleans Hornets team.
The Hornets, who’ve actually played very well as of late, beating the Clippers, falling by three to San Antonio, and then beating Golden State on Wednesday night, were simply just too shorthanded on this night. They learned right before the tip they would be without Jarrett Jack, and were already without almost half of their roster. That’s pretty much been their story this season. Again, to their credit, they hung around and make this a tighter contest in the end than it probably should have been.
Portland finally looked to be over the top when they built and 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but then perhaps relaxed for a beat and the Hornets came charging back behind Marco Belinelli, who ended with a career-high-tying 27 points, on 7 for 11 shooting from behind the three-point line.
The Trail Blazers did some damage themselves from behind the arc, led by Luke Babbitt, who leads all second-year players in the NBA now at just a hair below 50 percent on the season. Babbitt gave Portland a huge boost off the bench, scoring 16 points in just 17 minutes of action. Opportunity is something he’s been given now, and he’s certainly making the most of it.
But, the start of this game for the Blazers was a repeat performer. LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points, 12 rebounds, and five big assists, against a pretty good defensive front line. He was defended by Carl Landry, and Jason Smith most of the night, and also got Lance Thomas into foul trouble.
Raymond Felton, who missed Tuesday night’s game to be with his mother, returned to post a solid game. Felton had 12 points, 10 assists, and four rebounds. He played under control and didn’t force much, which is always a key for him.
Yes, J.J. Hickson is growing on a lot of people and continues to look for real. Hickson, who was brushed aside by the Sacramento Kings, is loving this chance he’s getting in Portland. He had 12 points, six rebounds, and countless hustle plays. He’s a big reason why Portland was able to get this win.
Nicolas Batum put the nail in the coffin in this game, hitting a big three-point shot with just under a minute left. That made the score 97-90, and completed a 14-point second half for him. Problem was, he was scoreless in the first half, and has to continue to be more of a factor than that. Also credit Wesley Matthews, who stayed red hot. In his last six games, Matthews is 20 for 35 from behind the three-point line. That is red hot.
This game started a stretch of seven games in the next 10 nights for the Trail Blazers. Fortunately, most of those are at home. Unfortunately, we’re headed to L.A. and take on the Clippers in the second game of a back to back on Friday night.
Talk to you from the Staples Center.