Hawks-Trail Blazers Preview

The Portland Trail Blazers are on the verge of their longest

home losing streak in nearly six years. If recent history is any

indication, the Atlanta Hawks are in good position to make that

happen.

Atlanta seeks its seventh consecutive win over Portland, which

may be without LaMarcus Aldridge again Saturday night when the

teams meet at the Rose Garden.

The Hawks (19-11) have only three victories during an

inconsistent eight-game stretch overall, but they won for the fifth

time in six road games Wednesday with a 101-99 come-from-behind

victory over Phoenix.

Atlanta trailed by as many as 15, but Josh Smith matched his

season high with 30 points and added 17 rebounds to aid the

comeback.

Willie Green scored a season-high 20 off the bench, helping the

Hawks overcome an off night from Joe Johnson, who finished 2 for 10

from the field for six points.

“I just wanted to be a little aggressive,” Smith said. “I know

they were keying on Joe and we needed offense somewhere else and me

and Willie picked up the slack tonight.”

Coach Larry Drew lauded Smith, who played nearly 45 minutes.

“(Johnson) said, ‘Leave him out there. He’s young,'” Drew said.

“I thought he was tired and he played (nearly 33 minutes Tuesday

against the Los Angeles Lakers). I wanted to give him a quick blow.

He wanted to stay in and I am glad he did because he played a

phenomenal game. Inside and out and defensively he was all over the

place.”

Smith scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Johnson

scored a game-high 24 in a 92-89 home win over Portland on Jan. 18

– the Hawks’ sixth straight win in the series after dropping 13 of

the previous 14 meetings.

Jamal Crawford scored a team-high 22 points off the bench in

that contest for the Blazers (16-15), who blew an 18-point

third-quarter lead Thursday in a 74-71 home loss to the Los Angeles

Clippers.

“It was a collapse. A total collapse,” said Crawford, who along

with Nicolas Batum scored a team-high 19 points. “In the fourth

quarter, it felt like we started playing like we were playing from

behind, and we were up. They became the aggressors. We were the

aggressors the first three quarters.”

Aldridge sat out his second straight game after spraining his

left ankle in Tuesday’s loss to visiting Washington. Portland’s top

scorer is questionable for Saturday’s contest as the Blazers hope

to avoid losing five consecutive home games for the first time

since March 20-April 1, 2006.

Without Aldridge on Thursday – and with the team playing its

third game in as many nights – Portland was outrebounded 47-35

while scoring its fewest points since a 72-65 loss to San Antonio

on April 6, 2008.

The Blazers may look to Crawford – who spent the last two

seasons with Atlanta before signing with Portland as a free agent –

to pick up the scoring slack if Aldridge is sidelined again.

Crawford has averaged 23.2 points in his last five games against

the Hawks, hitting 16 of 30 3-point attempts in that stretch.

Johnson has averaged 25.6 points in his last 10 against the

Blazers, while Smith has four straight double-doubles versus

Portland.

The Hawks’ recent victories in the series haven’t been blowouts

– the last five meetings were each decided by nine points or

fewer.