The banged-up Portland Trail Blazers seemed more relieved than anything after ending their longest losing streak of the season.
They’re hoping to be closer to full strength as they look to snap another skid.
Nicolas Batum could return Friday night as Portland tries to avoid an eighth consecutive road loss to the playoff-hopeful Phoenix Suns.
The Blazers (45-25), already without Wesley Matthews for the rest of the season, were missing LaMarcus Aldridge (hand), Chris Kaman (shoulder) and Batum (back) when they fell to Golden State on Tuesday for their fifth straight defeat.
Aldridge returned the following night to score 19 points as Damian Lillard added 23 and 12 assists in a 92-89 win at Utah. Batum said he wanted to play but was denied by team doctors after experiencing tightness during warmups.
”We needed a win and there was satisfaction we found a way to win even after we didn’t shoot the ball well for most of the game,” coach Terry Stotts said. ”For us, it was a gritty win and we did it a little unconventionally and I think it’s satisfying.”
Portland outscored Utah 37-24 in the fourth quarter, matching its point total from the first half.
”It came down to the last few minutes of the game and we haven’t been great in that time frame, closing games the last month or so," Lillard said. ”But with the losing streak, on the road, against a team that’s been playing well, it’s a big win in that way.”
The Blazers have had their problems in Phoenix for a number of years, losing 17 of 19 regular-season games since 2005 and last winning there on Dec. 10, 2010.
Having Batum back could help, as two of his three 20-point games this season have come against the Suns (38-34). Batum scored a season-high 27 in a 118-113 road loss Jan. 21, then netted 20 in Portland’s 108-87 home win Feb. 5.
It’s unclear if Kaman will be able to play against Phoenix, which sits three games behind Oklahoma City for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot. The Suns had a four-game winning streak snapped with Thursday’s 108-99 loss to Sacramento, missing a chance to pick up a game after the Thunder fell to San Antonio earlier that night.
”The disappointing thing is we knew the results already before the game even started, so we knew we had an opportunity to get real close,” center Brandan Wright said. "We’re running out of games so every game is a must-win at this point."
Markieff Morris scored 24 points while brother Marcus and Eric Bledsoe added 19 apiece. The Suns end a four-game homestand Sunday against the Thunder before playing in Portland the next night.
”It was a tough loss, but at the end of the day, we’re right there,” Bledsoe said. ”We still have a couple of games left that are winnable games.”
Phoenix has remained in contention despite playing the last seven without Brandon Knight, who’s dealing with a sprained ankle and was slated to return against the Kings before being a late scratch. There’s a chance Knight, whose average of 19.8 points in five career games against Portland is tied for his second best against any opponent, could return for this contest.