Trail Blazers 97, Hawks 77
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)
Felton had 14 points and eight assists in Portland's 97-77 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night, breaking out of a personal slump that had thrown his starting role into question.
He failed to score in Portland's previous game, a 74-71 loss to the Clippers in which the Blazers squandered an 18-point, third-quarter advantage. He had been averaging just 9.9 points, well off his average of 15.5 last season with New York and Denver.
Felton said he'd been working with a shooting coach, but more importantly, he took some time to himself - dubbed ''Raymond Time'' - to take a hard look at what was happening.
The introspection paid off against the Hawks, and Felton was instrumental in helping the Blazers snap a four-game home losing streak.
''It felt good,'' he said. ''And I think everybody else was happy with it as well.''
LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds in his return from a left ankle injury, was among those pleased with Felton's apparent breakthrough.
''(He) controlled the game from start to finish, made shots, got guys easy shots,'' Aldridge said. ''I thought he showed us who he is and what he can do.''
Nicolas Batum had 22 points for Portland, which hasn't lost five straight at home since the 2005-06 season.
Joe Johnson had 19 points for Atlanta, which came into the game with a six-game winning streak over the Blazers.
Josh Smith added 14 points and 10 rebounds in the Hawks' sixth loss in their last nine games.
''The bounces weren't going our way, but that's when we have to be a little more desperate,'' Smith said. ''They were making shots early on. Then we were able to play some good defense, but we gave up some long rebounds.''
Aldridge, Portland's top scorer who will play in his first All-Star game next weekend, sprained his left ankle Tuesday night in a loss at home to Washington. He started and hit his first four shots and added three assists in the first 10 minutes.
The Blazers were motivated from the start and took a 24-17 lead on Batum's put-back layup. Gerald Wallace extended the lead to 12 at 31-19 with a 3-pointer.
Felton capped the first half with a running jumper that made it 52-37 at the break. Atlanta made just three field goals in the second quarter to help out Portland.
The Blazers pushed the lead to 19 points midway through the third quarter when Felton hit a 3-pointer to make it 61-42.
Blazers coach Nate McMillan has shuffled the starting lineup of late, as the team dealt with Aldridge's injury and losses in five of its previous seven games.
Batum has started the last four games and has been in double figures in all of them. His 3-pointer as the game drew to a close made it 92-72.
''With Batum in the starting line-up, it makes them a bigger, more athletic team,'' Johnson said. ''He played great tonight. He's been feeding off the (crowd's) energy.''
There had been talk that Felton's days as a starter were numbered, but McMillan didn't make that change Saturday, and Felton took advantage.
McMillan said before Saturday's game that he had talked to Felton and the two had cleared the air about comments Felton made to a reporter earlier this week about his perception that the team lacked confidence in him.
''I thought he played free tonight. He looked pretty loose,'' McMillan said. ''It was good to see his shot fall and get some confidence there. Hopefully he can continue from here.''
Johnson was wearing a soft brace on his left knee because of tendinitis, but it didn't appear to cause him too much trouble. Coach Larry Drew said Johnson tried to rest it over the past few days while the Hawks had a break in the schedule.
''Tonight was just one of those nights where the energy level just wasn't up where it needed to be,'' Johnson said.
Notes: Atlanta C Erick Dampier's 10-day contract was up following the game. Drew said a decision hadn't been immediately made about re-signing him. The Hawks signed Dampier to help shore up the position in the absence of Jason Collins, who is out with a sprained left elbow. ... Jamal Crawford spent the last two seasons in Atlanta before joining the Blazers as a free agent this season. He did not score Saturday night against his former team, playing for just 13 minutes.