COACHING CHANGES EXPANDED MATCHUPS DEPTH CHARTS CURRENT ODDS
NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, March 22nd (All times Eastern)
Portland Trail Blazers (45-24) at Charlotte Bobcats (33-36), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Portland Trail Blazers take their playoff push to the road Saturday, when they kick off a five-game eastern trip against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The Trail Blazers are scheduled to visit Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Chicago as well on the sojourn and are 19-15 as the guest this season. They have experienced trouble on the road lately, losing four of five games.
Portland, though, won the last two installments of a three-game homestand and has prevailed in three of four overall since dropping four in a row. After losing to Golden State, Portland responded with wins over Milwaukee and Washington, and recently posted a 116-103 victory versus the Wizards Thursday.
Wesley Matthews scored a game-high 28 points and Damian Lillard finished with 23 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. Dorell Wright followed with 15 points and Nicolas Batum chipped in 12 points and 14 boards for the Blazers, who scored 63 points in the second half to Washington's 52. The Blazers scored 30 or more points in three of the four quarters and made 51 percent from the field,
"I think when we're moving the ball like we did today and how we did in the beginning of the year ... you never know who is going to shoot the ball," said Wright. "We have a lot of unselfish guys."
The Blazers were without All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (back) for the third straight time and he is expected to miss Saturday's game.
Portland, which is averaging an NBA-high 107.7 ppg, currently sits fifth in the Western Conference standings, 1 1/2 games behind Houston and 1 1/2 in front of Golden State.
The Bobcats are also in the postseason hunt at the seventh spot in the East and will play their next three games at home versus Portland, Houston and Brooklyn.
Charlotte is winless in its last two games after ripping off four straight victories and six in seven games. In Wednesday's 104-99 setback at Brooklyn, Al Jefferson posted his fifth double-double in the last six games with 18 points and 12 rebounds. He has 31 double-doubles on the season.
Gary Neal scored 17 points -- 15 in the second half -- for the Bobcats, who grabbed an 82-80 lead at one point thanks to a 17-5 run with less than eight minutes to go in the game. The Bobcats committed 15 turnovers for 21 points.
"If we're going to turn the ball over fifteen times, it's going to be hard for us to beat anybody," said Bobcats head coach Steve Clifford afterward. "Brooklyn is good at forcing turnovers, but we can't have the unforced ones that we had in the fourth quarter."
The Bobcats are still 10-6 since the All-Star break and 20-4 when scoring 100 or more points (11-1 at home). They are 8-1 in the last nine at home and have posted an average of 101.7 ppg in that time.
Charlotte is 8-5 in the last 13 games against Western Conference opponents and dropped a 134-104 decision in Portland on Jan. 2. The Blazers were on fire from 3-point range, making 21-of-33 shots (64 percent), and Matthews led the way with 25 points. Lillard had 24 in that one for the Blazers, who made 58 percent from the floor.
Jefferson had 19 points in the Rose City defeat for Charlotte, which has lost four straight and eight of the last nine meetings between the teams. Portland has won five of the eight meetings at Charlotte.
03/22 10:23:15 ET