Bobcats-Trail Blazers Preview
The Portland Trail Blazers ended their only losing streak of the season with a stirring comeback against one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Their favorable schedule would appear to give them a good chance to avoid another skid in the near future.
The Blazers will face six straight opponents with sub-.500 records beginning with Thursday night's visit from the slumping Charlotte Bobcats.
Portland (25-7) suffered each of its back-to-back losses on last-second shots before coming away with a 98-94 victory at Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
"It's a long way to go," coach Terry Stotts said. "It shows what we're capable of doing. We have to sustain it. But to get a win like that, after two disappointing losses, and again, getting it in a back-to-back on the road, that's a good win."
LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 25 points and 14 rebounds while helping the Blazers rally from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter and pull within one-half game of the Thunder in the Northwest Division. Damian Lillard made two free throws with 2.1 seconds left to finish with 21 points and 11 assists.
"The better teams in the league, a lot of times, they don't lose two in a row. They hardly ever lose three in a row," Lillard said. "We knew that that's not something we wanted to deal with, losing three in a row, especially after two heartbreakers.
"We defended a lot better. We were focused, and we knew what we needed to do coming in. We just kept with it and grinded it out."
A matchup with Charlotte (14-19) seems to give Portland the chance to keep heading in the right direction. The Blazers, 11-1 against Eastern Conference teams, will also face Philadelphia, Sacramento, Orlando, Boston and Cleveland in its next six games. Their only road game is at Sacramento.
The Bobcats have lost a season-worst four in a row and are 0-3 on their season-high, five-game trip after a 112-85 drubbing by the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
Charlotte failed to crack 40.0 percent shooting for the third time in four games and second in a row (38.2 percent). Kemba Walker extended his streak of double-digit scoring performances to a career-high 22 contests, but his 14 points matched Al Jefferson for the team lead Wednesday.
The Bobcats had suffered each of their previous nine losses by an average of 4.1 points and their prior five by a combined 15 points.
''They picked up their defense, made us take tough shots, and we weren't able to make them," Walker said. "On the offensive end, they moved the ball really well, shared the ball and made shots. We just couldn't get over the hump in the second half.''
Charlotte has lost its last five games in Portland by an average of 23.6 points - including a 112-68 defeat Feb. 1, 2012 - and has dropped seven of eight overall in the series. The Bobcats fell 122-105 in Oregon on March 4 in the most recent matchup.
Charlotte, however, had been one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA during that game. The Bobcats are among the best this season, allowing 93.8 points per game on 42.5 percent shooting.