Trail Blazers use fast start to beat Hawks

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The Portland Trail Blazers continued their quest to secure the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a 113-97 win over Atlanta, that also snapped a five game losing skid to the Hawks.

Portland, who are trying to overtake the Denver Nuggets in the postseason race, led by 23 points just 10 minutes into the game and rolled to victory behind 27 points from Damian Lillard and 22 from fellow guard CJ McCollum.

“Well, the understatement is that the first quarter was really an outstanding quarter for us at both ends,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.

“Defensively, we were really locked in. It got us off to a great start. After that, the game was kind of methodical, but the first quarter was pretty impressive.”

The Trail Blazers, who are 7-2 in March, made 13 of their first 15 from the floor and shot 76 percent in the first quarter to 16 percent for the Hawks while going up 40-18.

Portland, who are trying to overtake the Denver Nuggets in the postseason race, led by 23 points just 10 minutes into the game and rolled to victory behind 27 points from Damian Lillard — AP
Portland, who are trying to overtake the Denver Nuggets in the postseason race, led by 23 points just 10 minutes into the game and rolled to victory behind 27 points from Damian Lillard. – AP

Ersan Ilyasova tallied 23 points. He started in place of Paul Millsap who experienced left knee tightness warming up and was a late scratch.

The Trail Blazers, who made 13 of their first 15 from the floor, shot 76 percent in the first quarter to 16 percent for the Hawks and led 63-46 at halftime.

“It was the first quarter that we couldn’t recover from,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I thought we were poor defensively. I thought we were poor offensively.”

Elsewhere, Cody Zeller scored 19 points and the Charlotte Hornets snapped a three-game losing streak with a 98-93 win over the Washington Wizards.

The Hornets trailed at halftime but built the lead up to as many as nine midway through the fourth quarter and then held for the victory.

The Wizards got as close as three in the final 20 seconds, but the Hornets’ Marvin Williams hit four free throws with less than 10 seconds left.

John Wall led the Wizards with 19 points and eight assists.