NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, March 27th (All times Eastern)
Portland Trail Blazers (45-27) at Atlanta Hawks (31-39), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Portland Trail Blazers are suffering and could receive a much-needed boost when they resume a five-game road trip Thursday against the Atlanta Hawks.
Losers of three straight and eight of the last 11 games, the Blazers are hoping All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge will return against the Hawks. He has missed the last seven games with a back injury and the Blazers are 3-4 in that time.
Aldridge is averaging 23.4 points and 11.1 rebounds, and will be a game-time decision Thursday. He said running isn't "normal" yet and has been feeling better the past few days. When asked if he'll be able to play in Atlanta, Aldridge said, "Yeah. I say I'm trying to go no matter what. If I look good enough to play, then I'm going to play. It's on the medical staff."
The Blazers have been struggling and don't want to rush their star forward back into the lineup with the playoffs looming. They are currently fifth in the Western Conference, just a half-game ahead of Golden State and only two in front of Phoenix and Dallas. The Mavs are currently ninth in the West.
Aldridge, who hasn't been medically cleared to play, was asked if there is any fear missing the postseason.
"I mean, it's a sense of urgency to get wins, as it should be. We've definitely let ourselves slide too far and we all want to get wins right now and we understand the magnitude of trying to take care of business right now. So I think everybody knows the importance of winning right now."
The losing trend has made Aldridge want to return even sooner. The Blazers could have used him in Tuesday's 95-85 loss at Orlando, one night after a heart-breaking loss to the Miami Heat. The Magic snapped a nine-game losing streak and held Portland to 37 percent shooting.
Robin Lopez had 20 points and 13 rebounds, Wesley Matthews netted 18 points and Damian Lillard scored 17 for the Blazers.
"This is a very extremely disappointing loss and in fact it was a game we needed to have," Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said.
Portland, which has a 19-18 road record, is 0-3 on its road trip and will visit Chicago on Friday before returning to the Rose City.
The Hawks are losing again and hope to stay alive in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt with Portland in town. The Hawks have lost four in a row since winning five straight and are just 6-18 since Feb. 4.
Atlanta dropped a 107-83 decision at Minnesota on Wednesday, as Mike Scott led the visitors with 15 points and Paul Millsap chipped in 12 and 10 rebounds. The Hawks made 38 percent of their shots and turned the ball over 26 times for 32 Timberwolves points.
"I don't think we played well. Turnovers, missed shots, all those things are examples of where we didn't play to the standards that we expect," said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.
The Hawks are only two games ahead of the New York Knicks for the final postseason berth in the East and hope to improve their 20-13 home mark versus the Blazers. Portland defeated Atlanta on March 5 in a 102-78 win in the Rose City and all five starters scored in double figures.
Atlanta is 7-3 in the previous 10 games in this series.
03/27 10:23:43 ET