LaMarcus Aldridge was stunned, suddenly finding himself matched against a version of Kevin Garnett that hadn’t been seen yet in Brooklyn.
”I think he had one of those flashbacks to when he was in Minnesota and I was coming in as a rookie,” Aldridge said.
Just as quickly, the old Garnett reverted to just old, and the young Portland Trail Blazers ran right by the Brooklyn Nets.
Aldridge scored 27 points, Wesley Matthews added 24 and Portland shot 54 percent in a 108-98 victory Monday night that extended its winning streak to seven.
”This team is good. Guys can get going,” Aldridge said.
Damian Lillard finished with 19 points and nine assists as the Trail Blazers withstood the Nets’ blistering start to win seven in a row in the same season for the first time since a 13-game run in December 2007.
Portland (9-2) is just a half-game behind San Antonio and Indiana for the NBA’s best record. The Blazers will try to complete a perfect 4-0 road trip Wednesday at Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, the Nets (3-7) remain one of the NBA’s biggest disappointments. They shot 9 of 41 (22 percent) in the second half. Garnett made all six shots in Brooklyn’s 40-point first period, then went 2 for 13 from there to finish with a season-high 16 points.
”I take the blame for this,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. ”We got stagnant on the offensive end, so that falls on my shoulders. We came out flat in the third quarter.”
Shaun Livingston scored 23 points for the Nets, who stormed out to their best first quarter of the season and then seemed to run out of gas.
”They’re a talented team. They’ve got Hall of Famers on that team and we had to throw our first punch, because we felt like they did that to us in that first quarter,” Matthews said. ”We came at them defensively and ramped it up.”
Garnett and Paul Pierce were back in the starting lineup after missing Saturday’s loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles with injuries, though Brook Lopez and Deron Williams continued to rest sprained left ankles.
Pierce, who had a sore left groin, played as if he was still hurting, managing just 11 points on 2-for-12 shooting. Neither he nor Garnett spoke to reporters.
”It’s been a tough month for us,” said Jason Terry, who came with them from Boston. ”We’re going to stay optimistic, man. We have a great situation here and we’re just going to keep building.”
Portland turned the game around in the third quarter, limiting the Nets to 3-of-18 shooting and outscoring them 27-12 to take an 83-78 lead. They then opened the fourth with a 12-4 spurt to open a 95-82 advantage when Mo Williams was credited with a basket on a goaltending call.
Matthews was 5 of 8 from 3-point range, improving to 30 for 57 for the season (52.6 percent). He kept the Blazers in the game in the first quarter, when the Nets made 14 of 19 shots for a 40-31 lead.
”What won the game for us was turning it on the last three quarters defensively,” Matthews said. ”We’re not going to outscore teams on a consistent basis and win. We have to practice what we preach, which is defense, and that’s what we were able to do tonight.”
Garnett, who hadn’t been in double figures yet in the Brooklyn black and white, got there in this one by hitting five jumpers in less than 3 minutes at the start. He took a seat after starting 6 for 6 and then Livingston took over. He made all three of his shots in the period, including a driving, left-handed slam dunk over Robin Lopez that had teammates leaping up off the nearby Nets bench.
But they fell apart in the third, just as they have in all their losses. Brooklyn has won the third quarter in all three victories and been outscored in the period in every loss.
”We were hot. We had momentum. But you can go cold at any time in the game, so that’s where we have to make adjustments,” Livingston said. ”We’re all veterans out there on the floor.”
NOTES: Aldridge grabbed eight rebounds, ending his streak of five straight double-doubles. . . . The Nets were also without reserve forward Andrei Kirilenko, who continues to be bothered by back spasms. . . . Brooklyn’s previous high was 33 points in the first quarter at Washington. The Nets also lost that game after a bad third quarter.