The Portland Trail Blazers are on the verge of their longest home losing streak in nearly six years. If recent history is any indication, the Atlanta Hawks are in good position to make that happen.
Atlanta seeks its seventh consecutive win over Portland, which may be without LaMarcus Aldridge again Saturday night when the teams meet at the Rose Garden.
The Hawks (19-11) have only three victories during an inconsistent eight-game stretch overall, but they won for the fifth time in six road games Wednesday with a 101-99 come-from-behind victory over Phoenix.
Atlanta trailed by as many as 15, but Josh Smith matched his season high with 30 points and added 17 rebounds to aid the comeback.
Willie Green scored a season-high 20 off the bench, helping the Hawks overcome an off night from Joe Johnson, who finished 2 for 10 from the field for six points.
“I just wanted to be a little aggressive,” Smith said. “I know they were keying on Joe and we needed offense somewhere else and me and Willie picked up the slack tonight.”
Coach Larry Drew lauded Smith, who played nearly 45 minutes.
“(Johnson) said, ‘Leave him out there. He’s young,'” Drew said. “I thought he was tired and he played (nearly 33 minutes Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers). I wanted to give him a quick blow. He wanted to stay in and I am glad he did because he played a phenomenal game. Inside and out and defensively he was all over the place.”
Smith scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Johnson scored a game-high 24 in a 92-89 home win over Portland on Jan. 18 – the Hawks’ sixth straight win in the series after dropping 13 of the previous 14 meetings.
Jamal Crawford scored a team-high 22 points off the bench in that contest for the Blazers (16-15), who blew an 18-point third-quarter lead Thursday in a 74-71 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“It was a collapse. A total collapse,” said Crawford, who along with Nicolas Batum scored a team-high 19 points. “In the fourth quarter, it felt like we started playing like we were playing from behind, and we were up. They became the aggressors. We were the aggressors the first three quarters.”
Aldridge sat out his second straight game after spraining his left ankle in Tuesday’s loss to visiting Washington. Portland’s top scorer is questionable for Saturday’s contest as the Blazers hope to avoid losing five consecutive home games for the first time since March 20-April 1, 2006.
Without Aldridge on Thursday – and with the team playing its third game in as many nights – Portland was outrebounded 47-35 while scoring its fewest points since a 72-65 loss to San Antonio on April 6, 2008.
The Blazers may look to Crawford – who spent the last two seasons with Atlanta before signing with Portland as a free agent – to pick up the scoring slack if Aldridge is sidelined again. Crawford has averaged 23.2 points in his last five games against the Hawks, hitting 16 of 30 3-point attempts in that stretch.
Johnson has averaged 25.6 points in his last 10 against the Blazers, while Smith has four straight double-doubles versus Portland.
The Hawks’ recent victories in the series haven’t been blowouts – the last five meetings were each decided by nine points or fewer.