Hornets-Trail Blazers Preview
With his club in the midst of four games in five days, Portland coach Terry Stotts is keeping the Trail Blazers focused as he tries to maximize early-season wins.
Beginning another back-to-back set, Stotts and the Blazers can move to 2-1 during this daunting stretch if they can extend their run of dominance at home against Charlotte.
Portland seeks its fourth straight home win Tuesday night while trying to hand the Hornets a fourth consecutive road defeat to open the season.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard played more than 38 minutes in Saturday’s 106-102 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers before Aldridge logged 36 and Lillard 33 in a 116-100 home win over Denver the next night.
The Blazers (4-3) are in the middle of a busy portion of the schedule with six games in 10 days, though Aldridge is averaging 35.3 minutes – his fewest since 2007-08 – and Lillard is playing a career-low 34.9 per game.
Stotts, however, says winning comes first when considering how much his starters will play on a nightly basis. Portland will travel for a rematch with Denver (1-5) on Wednesday after facing the Hornets (3-4).
"If you have the luxury to look ahead, that’s great but the most important thing is we play Charlotte and we’ve got to find a way to win," he said. "If you have a chance to reduce the minutes a little bit you can here and there but getting the win is paramount."
Portland has had the luxury of accomplishing both in recent home meetings with Charlotte. Aldridge and Lillard were each on the court less than 30 minutes in a 134-104 rout in the last matchup in Portland on Jan. 2.
The Blazers have won six straight at home in the series by an average of 24.6 points. They’ve been particularly strong offensively in the last three, scoring 122.7 points per game while going 40 of 71 from 3-point range.
Portland is starting to make strides in that area with 106.8 points per game and a 41.4 3-point percentage while winning three of its last four. The Blazers had scored 96.7 per game on 32.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc during a 1-2 start.
Aldridge is coming off a season-high 28 points against the Nuggets. Wesley Matthews added 21 with five 3-pointers and is 9 for 13 from long range in his last two home meetings with Charlotte.
Nicolas Batum, though, suffered a right knee contusion Sunday, leaving him questionable against the Hornets.
Charlotte fell to 0-3 on the road following Sunday’s 107-92 loss to the previously winless Los Angeles Lakers that opened a four-game trip that features stops at Phoenix and Golden State.
"You could see our language starting to fade when we started missing shots and not playing defense," coach Steve Clifford said.
Lance Stephenson couldn’t build on his winning 3-pointer Friday against Atlanta, finishing with six points on 3-of-12 shooting. Stephenson, the club’s big free-agent acquisition, is averaging 8.0 points and shooting 30.6 percent.
He could have a tough time getting on track against Portland, which ranks among NBA leaders in defensive scoring at 94.6 points per game and in field-goal percentage at 41.2.
The Blazers will have to contend with Al Jefferson after he posted his fifth straight 20-point game Sunday. The center finished with 28 points while Aldridge did not play in Charlotte’s 124-94 home win March 22.