Trail Blazers-Nets Preview
Success from 3-point range is a big reason why the Portland Trail Blazers have been a pleasant surprise this season.
It's also put them on the verge of their longest winning streak in six years.
The Trail Blazers look to continue their impressive long-range shooting and post a seventh straight win Monday night against the potentially short-handed Brooklyn Nets.
It may be early, but Portland (8-2) is unexpectedly atop the Northwest Division after missing the playoffs for two straight seasons.
Improvement from beyond the arc is spurring the strong start.
The Trail Blazers made 35.3 percent from 3-point range while averaging 97.5 points in 2012-13, and they're shooting 10.5 percent better and scoring 7.1 more points so far this season.
Portland has been even better from long distance lately, hitting 46.4 percent during the six-game run.
The Blazers haven't won seven in a row since a 13-game run Dec. 3-30, 2007.
The current streak seemed in jeopardy Sunday after squandering a 17-point lead in regulation, but they made three of their season-high 15 3s in overtime to beat Toronto 118-110.
"This wasn't the first time we have done it," said forward Nicolas Batum, who had a season-high 24 points while making 5 of 8 from behind the arc. "Four or five times in a row we've had a good lead and had to close out the game and the other team came back. It paid off because we won in overtime and when you are up 15, 18 points with seven minutes to go, we have to close out the game."
LaMarcus Aldridge continues to do his part, leading the team with 22.2 points per game and 9.3 rebounds - 12.2 over the last five contests. The forward had 25 points and 11 rebounds Sunday, two days after getting 27 and 12, respectively, in a 109-96 win at Boston to open this four-game Eastern Conference road trip.
The Blazers, who visit last-place Milwaukee on Wednesday, may have a chance at an unbeaten trip since the Nets (3-6) are dealing with injuries to four of their five starters.
That was the scenario Saturday, when Brooklyn lost for the fourth time in five games, falling 110-103 on the road to the Los Angeles Clippers.
"Those guys that suited up definitely gave me everything they had," first-year coach Jason Kidd said. "We just came up short, but the effort was there with the 10 guys that we had and we put ourselves in a position to win a game on the road against a very talented team."
Having at least Lopez back would certainly help. The center leads the Nets with 20.5 points, 6.5 boards and 2.8 blocks, and he's averaging 22.7 over his last seven meetings with the Trail Blazers.
Lopez scored 28 points in a 111-93 win at Portland on March 27.
If he's unable to play, then Kidd will likely turn to Andray Blatche, who had a season-high 19 points with eight rebounds against the Clippers in his first start of the season.
He totaled 18 points off the bench over the three previous games.