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News » Hawks-Trail Blazers Preview

Hawks-Trail Blazers Preview

Hawks-Trail Blazers Preview
The Portland Trail Blazers have been tough to beat at home all season. The Atlanta Hawks hope they're finally learning to win on the road.

Portland will look for its seventh straight victory at the Rose Garden on Friday night when it hosts the Hawks, who seek their fifth road win in six games as they continue their longest trip of the season.

The Trail Blazers (33-20) won their first seven home games by an average of 14.7 points, but went 8-5 in the next 13 games on their home floor.

After that mediocre stretch, though, Portland is back to dominating at the Rose Garden. Its sixth win in a row there came by a 94-90 score over Memphis on Wednesday.

Brandon Roy had 24 points and nine assists to lead the Blazers in their return from the All-Star break.

"This was a tough game," coach Nate McMillan said. "It's not surprising though. Often, when there are a number of days off, it's sometimes a disadvantage."

The Blazers shot 45.6 percent against the Grizzlies, the 10th straight game in which they made at least 45 percent of their shots. Portland is 26-6 when it reaches that mark, 7-14 when it doesn't.

McMillan's team played Wednesday without center Greg Oden, who has a bone chip in his left knee cap. Oden wasn't expected to practice Thursday, meaning he'll almost certainly miss Friday's game.

Joel Przybilla, who took Oden's spot in the lineup, has averaged 6.4 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting 78.0 percent in 14 starts this season.

While Oden missed a game for the first time since Nov. 10, Portland did get starting point guard Steve Blake back. Blake had played just 10 minutes since Jan.15 because of a separated right shoulder, but had seven points and eight assists in his return.

Many expected the Blazers to use the injured Raef Lafrentz's expiring contract prior to Thursday's trading deadline to obtain some backcourt help for Blake and Roy. However, no deals - including one that would have sent New Jersey's Vince Carter to Portland - panned out.

The Hawks (32-22) also stood pat at the deadline, but haven't needed much help lately as they've put a rocky start on the road behind them. Atlanta is 19-6 at home, but was 5-15 on the road from Nov. 12-Jan. 31 after opening the season with four consecutive road wins.

Recently, though, the Hawks have looked more comfortable away from Philips Arena. They've won four of their last five as visitors and two of three on a season-high six-game trip.

Mike Bibby led the way with 29 points and Al Horford had 18 points and 18 rebounds Wednesday as Atlanta held on for a 105-100 victory over Sacramento despite nearly letting a late lead slip away.

"We tend to make games we should win tough for us at the end," said guard Joe Johnson, who had 20 points. "We have to try and grow out of that. We are trying to be one of the top teams in the East. We had to come out and show a lot of character and a lot of growth."

The Hawks may need another big game out of Horford if they're going to beat the Blazers for just the second time in 14 tries. Prior to Wednesday, he was averaging 7.3 points and 6.2 rebounds in his last six contests as he worked his way back from a bone bruise in his right knee.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: February 19, 2009


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