Blazers bump Bucks, win eighth in a row

Andrew Wagner, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MILWAUKEE -- All the makings of a "trap game" were present for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Riding a seven-game winning streak and heading into the finale of a four-game trip that included stops in high-profile markets such as Boston and Brooklyn, Portland came to Milwaukee to face the undermanned and underperforming Bucks in front of a sparse mid-week crowd at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The Trail Blazers kept their streak alive, winning their eighth straight with a 91-82 decision over the Bucks.
"Every team in this league can win, but after playing a game in Brooklyn against Hall of Famers in New York City and all that, I liked our mindset, coming in and taking care of business," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "To finish a road trip undefeated with the defensive energy we had in the second half, no question it's a solid win."
Portland (10-2) had to overcome a somewhat sluggish offense. The Trail Blazers shot 40.7 percent from the field, though they made 11 3-pointers. They were stingy on the defensive end, holding the Bucks to 43.8 percent shooting from the field.
"We realized we weren't doing a lot of things right," Portland center Robin Lopez said. "They were beating us to the loose ball. ... We had to be aggressive, defensive, ready to get on the floor and do whatever it took to secure the ball."
Playing a little more an hour away from his hometown of Madison, Wis., and in the arena he called home during four years at Marquette University, Wesley Matthews got the Trail Blazers off to a good start, scoring 13 of his 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the first quarter. He made three 3-pointers, all of them in the opening quarter.
Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while point guard Damian Lillard had 19 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists.
"We've been playing well," Matthews said. "We need to turn our third-quarter defense into our first-quarter defense, but we played well. It feels good. Our mentality is right, our mentality is good. We're thinking greedy, we're thinking 'win' like we're supposed to."
Portland's defense frustrated the Bucks, who lost for the sixth consecutive game and for the seventh time in the past eight.
The Bucks (2-8) were dominant in the paint, outscoring Portland 42-28, but they were careless with the ball, finishing with 19 turnovers -- 13 in the second half, leading to 16 points for Portland.
"When it gets to (crunch) time, the errors have to be slim to none and you have to execute with force and make plays," Bucks guard O.J. Mayo said. "Everything has to go up another notch down the stretch. We have to be better."
Making his first start of the season, Bucks point guard Luke Ridnour finished with 13 points, five rebounds, five assists and a steal in 29 minutes -- his longest effort of the year. Center Zaza Pachulia added 11 points and eight rebounds. Off the bench, guard Gary Neal scored 11 points, and forward John Henson had 10 with seven rebounds.
Playing with their healthiest lineup in weeks -- though still missing key contributors like point guard Brandon Knight (hamstring), forward/center Larry Sanders (thumb) and guard/forward Carlos Delfino (ankle) -- Milwaukee gave the Trail Blazers a game in the first half by shooting 50 percent (21-for-42) from the field.
Portland, though, hit seven of 14 3-point attempts and got double-digit efforts from Aldridge, Lillard and Matthews to hold a 53-51 lead at the break. The Blazers opened the third on an 8-0 run to go ahead by 10.
"We did a good job in the first half," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "To go in down two at halftime and then come out at the start of the third when we gave up four baskets off the bat, that's an error on our part. We cannot come out flat, and we just never seemed to really recover after that."
Milwaukee cut into the lead several times but couldn't get closer than six down the stretch.
NOTES: Bucks G O.J. Mayo left the game in the fourth quarter with a twisted ankle, but he expects to be ready when the Bucks face the 76ers on Friday in Philadelphia. ... Luke Ridnour replaced Nate Wolters at point guard. PG Brandon Knight is recovering from a hamstring injury that has limited him to 40 minutes this season. ... Bucks F Ersan Ilyasova returned to action for the first time since Nov. 2. He was sidelined due to an ankle injury. ... The Trail Blazers hit 10 or more 3-pointers for the sixth time this season.. ... Portland snapped a four-game losing streak to Milwaukee. ... The Blazers play host to the Chicago Bulls on Friday.

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