Nets-Trail Blazers Preview

The Portland Trail Blazers enter their next game at the Rose

Garden looking to avoid extending a rare home losing streak.

They hope a visit from the New Jersey Nets goes better than the

last meeting between the two.

Portland will try to avoid losing three straight at home for the

first time in nearly three years when it hosts New Jersey on

Saturday night.

Struggling defensively, the Trail Blazers (20-20) have lost

three in a row overall, including 115-111 at Phoenix on Friday.

Wesley Matthews scored 26 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 25

to help Portland take a 13-point second-quarter lead. However, the

Suns rallied and never trailed in the final 8:05 as the Blazers

couldn’t get a needed stop after tying the game at 108.

“You need to get stops,” coach Nate McMillan said. “One-hundred

eleven points is enough, should be enough, to win a ballgame, but

defensively they shoot over 50 percent from the floor as well as

from the 3-point line.”

Portland has given up at least 100 points in all three of its

losses during the slide. The normally stingy defense, which is

giving up 95.5 points per game, hasn’t allowed opponents to reach

the century mark in four consecutive games since Dec. 2-9,

2007.

The Blazers will try to bounce back at home, where they’ve lost

their last two games with both coming against Eastern Conference

foes. Portland is 6-7 against teams from the East, which includes a

98-96 loss to New Jersey on Nov. 28.

The Blazers had won five in a row over the Nets, but New Jersey

shot 52.5 percent and was led by 25 points from Devin Harris.

Portland hasn’t lost three in a row at home since March 29-April

6, 2008.

However, the Trail Blazers should have an easier time slowing

the Nets (10-29), who have lost four in a row, including 100-88 to

the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

New Jersey has dropped nine of 10, been held to fewer than 100

points in nine of those games and less than 90 in five.

Brook Lopez scored 35 points against the two-time defending

champions, but Harris was held to six – more than 10 below his

season average. The Nets pulled within 78-76 with 7 1/2 minutes to

play, but the Lakers responded with a 9-0 run.

“They really want to win, and they know it takes extra work, but

it’s going to take some time and some patience,” said Sasha

Vujacic, who was traded to New Jersey from the Lakers exactly one

month ago. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

New Jersey, which closes a four-game trip Monday at Golden

State, is 4-11 against teams from the West.

The Blazers, who haven’t been swept in a regular-season series

against New Jersey since 2002-03, have won their last two home

games against the Nets and 12 of the last 14 matchups in

Portland.