Trail Blazers welcome back Gerald Wallace, outlast Nets 101-88

After the disappointing loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday, the Portland Trail Blazers (26-29) had to have known their recent record against the lowly New Jersey Nets (19-37) and had a smile on their faces, the Nets have only won nine games in Portland the last couple of seasons and Portland just dominates the series against them. However the Blazers would have to change their game plan on All-Star point guard Deron Williams right before tipoff as it was announced by the Nets that he would sit out due to a stomach virus. The Blazers also welcomed back forward Gerald Wallace who they traded away before the trade deadline and was a tough decision to make, although it was for the better, Rip City and the fans sure let him know that his high-flying energy is missed and were happy to see him.

For the game, Portland’s starters with combined shooting from LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and a re-energized Raymond Felton built a 14-point lead at one point, but the Nets kept charging and never loosened up, actually taking the lead halfway through the fourth quarter. Portland didn’t back down either and thanks to some excellent defense and scoring late, were able to hold off the Nets and take the 101-88 victory before taking a two-game road trip into the weekend.

The first half was basically Portland getting the shots they needed over a Williams-less Nets who got much of their scoring from the former Mr. Kardashian, Kris Humphries and DeShawn Stevenson both from outside and inside. Jump shots from Aldridge, threes by Wesley Matthews, Luke Babbitt and Batum constructed nearly a 14-point lead after Portland won the first quarter 21-17. It was a different story once the Blazers’ bench made their appearance and the Nets took advantage and gave the ball to either Anthony Morrow or Gerald Green on every other possession. The bench seemed to get lazy or figure they would cruise through their lead but it shrank, it was a sigh of relief whenever Aldridge or Felton made their way off the bench to get back into the game. The Nets would end the second quarter on a mini 7-1 run and cut into the ten-point lead Portland had to only be down two points at halftime.

By this point you’ve probably noticed that Wallace hasn’t been mentioned yet. Was he crashing the boards? Gunning down the sideline for the jam or posterizing Matthews down low for the power layup? Not quite, in fact most of his shot attempts down in the paint were met by blocks from Aldridge and J.J. Hickson. Aldridge even had the moment to slam a huge dunk on Wallace to rebuild the Blazer lead. As long as the starters were in, the Nets were confused on defense and couldn’t get their rotations correct, leaving someone like Hickson open in the lane for Felton to pass for the open jam. Even Babbitt would connect from deep at the buzzer to end the third quarter as Portland has gone mad for Babbitt’s recent success.

After New Jersey gave the ball back to Morrow and Green and Nolan Smith made some stupid fouls on multiple possessions, the Nets gunned some impressive runs and eventually took a three-point lead in the opening minutes of the fourth. Portland had to take another timeout and remind everyone not to slack on defense, and suddenly Felton was picking pockets, Batum and Aldridge were boxing out and forcing Morrow and Green to take some tough shots. Even Wallace had a good look at an open three and missed, and on the other side the Blazers fought hard for the second chance point, and even hit some threes. Aldridge and Hickson would clean up down low, Felton connected for a three and sweet floater and Batum was the Chalupaman tonight for cashing in an open three to extend Portland to 101.

LaMarcus Aldridge played great tonight as he went 10-18 from the floor for a modest 24 Pts, 9 Reb, 3 Ast and 2 Blk in 37 minutes and didn’t lose a step. Tonight also marked a big milestone for Nicolas Batum who recorded his first double-double of the season against the Jazz on Monday, he scored 20 Pts and grabbed 10 Reb for his consecutive double D along with 2 Ast, 2 Stl and 4-8 from three-point land. Raymond Felton was glad to forget about his lackluster performance late in the Jazz loss and rebounded quite nicely and needed it most: 14 Pts, 8 Reb, 9 Ast, 2 Stl on 5-8 shooting and 3 turnovers. J.J. Hickson did a terrific job in his 25 minutes of play for 18 Pts, 8 Reb and a handful of highlight-worthy jams that ignited the Rose Garden crowd to lead the bench in scoring.

Bummer night for Gerald Wallace as he only had 8 Pts, 9 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 Stl in his homecoming. For scoring, Kris Humphries led the way overall for 21 Pts, 11 Reb but it was the combined scoring from Anthony Morrow and Gerald Green who share 40 points together. At times they looked pretty good as the Nets scored 32 points in the paint to Portland’s 36, scored 15 off the fast break and hit 18-19 from the free throw line, but it was just not enough. Portland shot 45% overall and drained 12-24 three-pointers. Without Deron Williams, the Nets fell behind on the assists, Portland won that easily 24-17 and created a swat party, 6-2 for the night.

Get a good look because in this condensed schedule this would be the only time these two teams meet. It was also a game whoever came out on top didn’t hurt Portland too much as they have New Jersey’s 4th pick in the Draft in the trade with Gerald Wallace. A Nets win would keep them outside the top three slots and a Blazers loss would have helped them to better position themselves in the lottery. Nice win for Portland, now they take a weird two-game road trip this weekend with back-to-back visits to reigning champions Mavericks and then to get revenge on the Bucks.

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