Millsap paces Hawks over Blazers, 104-98
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks had one main goal: Keep Portland from making 3-pointers.
The defensive strategy worked, and the Hawks opened a four-game road trip with a 104-98 victory over the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
Paul Millsap and Kent Bazemore each had 23 points for Atlanta, which has won three straight overall and four straight against the Blazers. Millsap added nine rebounds.
Portland went 9 for 31 from beyond the arc. The Blazers shot 39.9 percent from long range over its previous six games, averaging 13.2 made 3s.
“Defensive focus tonight was to make sure we forced them off the 3-point line,” said Al Horford, who finished with 16 points. “We did that throughout the game. They had a lot of drives to the basket and that’s what we wanted to do.”
CJ McCollum had 28 points for Portland, which trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half but came all the way back to grab an 84-79 lead after Meyers Leonard’s 3-pointer with 8:10 left.
Kyle Korver wrestled back the lead for the Hawks with his first 3-pointer of the game, before Millsap’s 3 and Horford’s jumper stretched Atlanta’s lead to 98-92 with 1:53 left. Portland couldn’t catch up.
“We got a couple stops, and I think we hit some 3s,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “At the end of the day, both teams can be very effective from the 3-point line. We wanted to take away their 3s.”
Damian Lillard had 18 points for the Blazers in the opener of an eight-game homestand.
“We wanted to start it off with a win tonight,” Lillard said. “It would have been a good win for us but we didn’t put enough of a complete game together.”
Atlanta opened a 33-20 lead on Mike Scott’s jumper in the second quarter, but Portland pulled within one at 43-42 after Lillard’s long jumper. Atlanta had a 48-43 lead at the break.
The Hawks increased their advantage to 66-56 midway through the third, but the Blazers kept hanging around, closing to 74-72 on McCollum’s 19-foot jumper.
Lillard hit a 3-pointer and a free throw to tie it at 79 with 9:42 to go. He followed with a running layup that gave Portland its first lead since the first quarter.
“When our defense is where it needs to be on any given night, we will be tough to beat. Our offense gets a lot of the glory but it was our defense that kept us in the game,” Bazemore said.
With a young squad, Portland was looking at the process more than the result.
“I thought we had a good effort. It seemed like we were fighting from behind most of the way but we kept at it,” coach Terry Stotts said.
Hawks: With the win, Budenholzer tied Bob Weiss for eighth on Hawks’ career wins list with 124.
Trail Blazers: McCollum has now scored 20 or more points in 20 games this season. ... The Blazers played the music video for Lillard’s newly released song “Bigger Than Us.”
The Trail Blazers unveiled Oregon’s new Trail Blazers license plate, which will be available to drivers this spring. Proceeds from the $40 surcharge for the plates will be distributed to youth-oriented nonprofits across Oregon. Gov. Kate Brown was on hand for the unveiling.
FOURTH QUARTER KEY
“We dug down deep and found another gear. We got some huge plays down the stretch,” Bazemore said. “The fourth quarter was tough, and that has happened to us. Tonight we were able to turn up the intensity when there is not much left in the tank.”
Hawks: Visit Sacramento on Thursday night.
Trail Blazers: Host the Lakers on Saturday night.