PORTLAND – The Portland Trail Blazers (2-5) have now lost their fourth consecutive game, after opening the season with a winning record, in a 95-87 loss to the Atlanta Hawks (3-3).
The Hawks climbed out to an early 22-9 lead putting Portland in all too familiar situation of being down early. Portland went on a 15-2 run starting at the 9:40 mark in the fourth quarter to bring the Blazers one of their few leads in the game at 82-80. It didn’t last long, however, as Atlanta responded with a 10-0 run to close the game, turning a two-point deficit into an eight-point win.
“We keep putting ourselves in holes,” guard Wesley Matthews said after the game. “We can’t keep doing that to ourselves.”
Matthews finished the game with 17 points on 3-9 shooting (0-6 from three-point range). He also was a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line. He was third on the team in points scored behind J.J. Hickson and Nicolas Batum who each scored 19 points.
Like last game, Portland’s bench put in a poor performance against the Hawks by only combining for six points on 2-12 shooting. Portland’s bench has been outscored 89-10 in close loses to the Spurs and Hawks (26-6 against Hawks).
Joel Freeland was 0-5 with 0 points scored, Meyers Leonard was 1-4 with four points and Ronnie Price went 1-3 with two points. Portland’s bench played a total of 54 minutes with the starters playing 186.
Despite the slow start and four-game losing streak, head coach Terry Stotts believes that his team is continuing to grow and that a 2-5 record is not something to be concerned over.
“Certainly, the record is important, but the other things are more important at this point,” Stotts said. “Certainly, we want to go in and win every game. But as I said when I got job, I’m going to base it on how we’re playing and how we’re improving. That’s how I judge our team.”
Fans and media new going into this season that Portland would have a difficult opening stretch with two new starters, a new coaching staff and a difficult schedule. Portland has the ninth toughest strength of schedule (.540) and have an RPI of 17th in the league (.477) according to ESPN rankings.
The Blazers’ schedule will get a lot easier in December when they open with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Bobcats, Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors. Of those five games, Portland should get four wins in that stretch.
As for the immediate schedule, Portland has the Kings on the road tonight followed by two home games against the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls. With those two home games, it’s safe to say fans will be packing the Rose Garden to see the stars come to the Rose City.
- The Blazers and Hawks entered the match with an even-split 50-50 win record against the other in 100 matches played. Atlanta now takes the series lead 51-50.
- Portland’s 195-game sellout streak came to an end last night, one of the longest in the NBA. The sellout streak started on Dec. 21, 2007.