Trail Blazers-Nets Preview

Success from 3-point range is a big reason why the Portland

Trail Blazers have been a pleasant surprise this season.

It’s also put them on the verge of their longest winning streak

in six years.

The Trail Blazers look to continue their impressive long-range

shooting and post a seventh straight win Monday night against the

potentially short-handed Brooklyn Nets.

It may be early, but Portland (8-2) is unexpectedly atop the

Northwest Division after missing the playoffs for two straight

seasons.

Improvement from beyond the arc is spurring the strong

start.

The Trail Blazers made 35.3 percent from 3-point range while

averaging 97.5 points in 2012-13, and they’re shooting 10.5 percent

better and scoring 7.1 more points so far this season.

Portland has been even better from long distance lately, hitting

46.4 percent during the six-game run.

The Blazers haven’t won seven in a row since a 13-game run Dec.

3-30, 2007.

The current streak seemed in jeopardy Sunday after squandering a

17-point lead in regulation, but they made three of their

season-high 15 3s in overtime to beat Toronto 118-110.

“This wasn’t the first time we have done it,” said forward

Nicolas Batum, who had a season-high 24 points while making 5 of 8

from behind the arc. “Four or five times in a row we’ve had a good

lead and had to close out the game and the other team came back. It

paid off because we won in overtime and when you are up 15, 18

points with seven minutes to go, we have to close out the

game.”

LaMarcus Aldridge continues to do his part, leading the team

with 22.2 points per game and 9.3 rebounds – 12.2 over the last

five contests. The forward had 25 points and 11 rebounds Sunday,

two days after getting 27 and 12, respectively, in a 109-96 win at

Boston to open this four-game Eastern Conference road trip.

The Blazers, who visit last-place Milwaukee on Wednesday, may

have a chance at an unbeaten trip since the Nets (3-6) are dealing

with injuries to four of their five starters.

It’s unclear if they’ll have Deron Williams (ankle), Brook Lopez

(ankle), Paul Pierce (groin) and Kevin Garnett (ankle) available,

leaving Joe Johnson as the only healthy regular starter.

That was the scenario Saturday, when Brooklyn lost for the

fourth time in five games, falling 110-103 on the road to the Los

Angeles Clippers.

“Those guys that suited up definitely gave me everything they

had,” first-year coach Jason Kidd said. “We just came up short, but

the effort was there with the 10 guys that we had and we put

ourselves in a position to win a game on the road against a very

talented team.”

Having at least Lopez back would certainly help. The center

leads the Nets with 20.5 points, 6.5 boards and 2.8 blocks, and

he’s averaging 22.7 over his last seven meetings with the Trail

Blazers.

Lopez scored 28 points in a 111-93 win at Portland on March

27.

If he’s unable to play, then Kidd will likely turn to Andray

Blatche, who had a season-high 19 points with eight rebounds

against the Clippers in his first start of the season.

He totaled 18 points off the bench over the three previous

games.