Trail Blazers come up big in second half to defeat Nets

Joe Pantorno, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The mark of a good basketball good team is the ability to absorb pressure, face adversity and adapt to any situation. The Portland Trail Blazers, possibly one of the biggest surprises of this NBA season so far, did just that, overcoming the Brooklyn Nets' best first half of basketball this season and outscoring their hosts 52-35 in the second half on their way to a 108-98 win on Monday night.
"We are not going to outscore teams on a consistent basis and win," Blazers guard Wesley Matthews said. "We have to practice what we preach, which is defense, and that's what we were able to do tonight."
Portland (9-2) was led by the three-headed attack of Matthews, guard Damian Lillard and forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Showing his prowess from long range, Matthews scored 25 points, 15 of them coming from beyond the arc (five of eight 3-pointers) while Lillard carved open the Nets defense with dynamic drives, scoring 19.
"I was just taking what they gave me," Matthews said. "After the first (3-pointer) went in, I started hunting a little more. The second one went in and I was definitely hunting for it."
Aldridge, who set up shop at mid-range, used his quick release to his advantage, scoring 27 points.
The Nets' stellar first half included 63 points in the first half on 22-of-44 shooting, but the second half was the polar opposite, as they were held to just 35 points on eight-of-40 shooting.
"I was really proud of our team," Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said. "We withstood a barrage in the first quarter and basically I think we held Brooklyn to 25 percent shooting the rest of the game. Particularly in the second half, we came out really aggressive on the ball."
Led by a second-half surge from Aldridge, who scored 19 in the final two quarters, the Blazers' stellar offense remained consistent while the Nets offense sputtered, allowing Portland to build a comfortable lead.
"I was just trying to fit in in the third quarter," Aldridge said. "I turned up a little bit in the second half, but this team is good and guys can get going."
Missing center Brook Lopez and guard Deron Williams to injury, Brooklyn (3-7) showed its depth and play-making ability. A brand of aggressive play that has been rare in Brooklyn was sparked by forward Kevin Garnett's hot start. The veteran recorded a season high in scoring in the game's first five minutes, knocking down 12 points on six-of-six shooting. He finished the game with 16.
"I think he had one of those flashbacks to when he was a rookie on Minnesota," Aldridge, who was guarding Garnett, said. "He was on fire. They came out focused, but we settled down."
His play had the Nets leading by as many as 11 in the first half and the Blazers shooting for their lives.
Matthews managed to match Garnett's hot start by knocking down his first four 3-point attempts while not allowing the Nets to pull away.
"I have to credit my teammates for getting me open, setting screens, the delivery," Matthews said. "They're doing all the hard stuff, I just have to shoot it and I'm playing off the confidence of our team. We are on a great roll right now."
Guard Shaun Livingston, Williams' replacement, carried the Nets offense, dropping 23 points, including a highlight reel, left-handed slam over Portland center Robin Lopez.
"I'm just trying to stay aggressive, talk to my coaches and be an extension of them," Livingston said. "I'm just trying to do the best I can in the role I'm in."
One of the top-10 shooting teams in the league, Portland was gun-slinging at the Barclays Center with its host. Both offenses were scorching to start. The Nets scored on 16 of its first 17 possessions and went 14-for-19 from the field in the first quarter while Portland shot just as well at 13-of-18.
"That's what happens," Livingston said. "It's the ebbs and flows of the game. We came out hot. I think we had a good rhythm, good momentum."
While the Nets' first half was extraordinary by this season's standards, the Blazers' output was expected as the visitors were able to stay with Brooklyn every step of the way.
"We just have better players and guys have more experience," Aldridge said. "I'm just happy that guys are buying in defensively and playing team basketball."
NOTES: The Nets are dealing with an injury wave. G Deron Williams and C Brook Lopez did not play against the Blazers due to sprained left ankles. F Andrei Kirilenko sat out because of back spasms. ... Nets F Paul Pierce (sore left groin) and F Kevin Garnett (sprained right ankle) played despite their ailments. ... The Blazers brought in the NBA's eighth-best offense into play Monday night, averaging 104.6 points per game. ... Portland F LaMarcus Aldridge led the team with an average of 22.2 points per game, ninth in the league through Sunday.

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