Trail Blazers 104, Hawks 93

The Portland Trail Blazers credit improved defense for

back-to-back road wins that have kept their playoff hopes

alive.

The Atlanta Hawks say they must revive their defense to have any

hopes of home-court advantage in the first round of the

playoffs.

Wesley Matthews scored 28 points to lead three Blazers with at

least 20 points and Portland beat the Hawks 104-93 Friday night for

their second road win in as many nights.

Damian Lillard scored 22 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 20

points and 13 rebounds, giving him at least 20 points in seven

straight games. Aldridge scored 28 points in the Blazers’ 99-89 win

at Chicago on Thursday night.

”We’ve been playing a lot better defense in the last two

games,” Lillard said.

The Hawks and Bulls are fifth and sixth, respectively, in the

Eastern Conference standings. Atlanta trails fourth-place Brooklyn

by 2 1/2 games in the race for home-court advantage in the first

round.

”That was a quality road win against a very good playoff

team,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. ”I was very pleased with

our defense, particularly in the second half. With back-to-back

wins like this on the road against Chicago and Atlanta, I’m very

proud of my team.”

The Blazers are 10th in the Western Conference, three games

behind the eighth-place Lakers.

”We’re going to keep on fighting until we’re mathematically

eliminated,” Matthews said.

The Hawks led by 11 points in the third quarter before Matthews

rallied the Trail Blazers.

”This team never quits playing, whether during a game or during

the course of a season,” Stotts said.

The Hawks completed a disappointing 1-2 homestand. Josh Smith

led Atlanta with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Jeff Teague scored 21

points and Al Horford added 15 points with 11 rebounds.

The Blazers made 10 of 18 3-pointers, including five of eight by

Matthews and four of five by Lillard. Nine of the 3-pointers came

in the second half.

Hawks coach Larry Drew said that was proof his defense wasn’t

doing the job.

”That’s breakdown. That’s major, major breakdown,” he said.

”We’ve got to get back to that blue-collar mentality with our

defense. We’ve got to get back to an almost training camp-like

attitude.”

Horford said the Hawks must regroup in their final 13

regular-season games.

”We just had too many defensive breakdowns,” Horford said. ”I

told the guys we just have to figure out who we are and where we

are at this point of the year.

”By this point of the year, I think we should know. Now we have

these games that are remaining to put it together.”

Drew said the Hawks have ”turned into a team which is trying to

outscore people” instead of making defensive stops.

”It is not who we are, not who we said we would be at the very

beginning of our season,” Drew said. ”I thought our defense let

us down. We did not do a good job. We had too many breakdowns

across the board.”

J.J. Hickson also posted a double-double for Portland with 15

points and 10 rebounds.

Portland led 52-51 early in the third quarter before Smith’s

basket on a pass from Horford started a 15-3 run for the Hawks.

Smith had two jams – each set up by Teague – in the run, which left

the Hawks leading 66-55.

Stotts called two timeouts during Atlanta’s run. The Blazers

began their comeback following the second timeout with 5:26

remaining in the third period.

The Blazers’ only points during Atlanta’s run came on a

3-pointer by Matthews. The third-year guard from Marquette added a

jumper and two more 3s in a stretch of 11 straight points for

Portland, cutting the Hawks’ lead to 76-73 at the end of the third

period.

Portland went up 82-78 with a 9-0 run early in the final period.

The Hawks came no closer than two points the rest of the way.

A steal and basket by Teague cut the Blazers’ lead to 90-88.

Portland responded with eight unanswered points, including a

3-pointer by Lillard, to stretch its lead to 98-88.

Kyle Korver’s 3-pointer midway through the third quarter gave

him at least one 3 in 62 consecutive games, tied with Peja

Stojakovic (2008) for the fifth-longest streak in NBA history. It

was his only 3-pointer of the game.

NOTES: Stotts was Atlanta’s coach from 2002-04. … The Blazers

ended a streak of four straight losses in Atlanta. Portland’s last

win in Atlanta was on Jan. 21, 2008. … Horford posted his 40th

double-double. … Hickson and Aldridge recorded their 38th and

34th double-doubles, respectively. … Portland had a 48-41

advantage in rebounds.