(SportsNetwork.com) - A southern road trip is on the horizon for the Portland Trail Blazers, but first they'll close out a four-game homestand Wednesday versus the Atlanta Hawks.
The Trail Blazers hope to get back into the win column after dropping a 107-106 decision to the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday. Blazers guard Damian Lillard gave the Blazers a 106-105 edge on 1-of-2 shots from the foul line before the Lakers took the lead for good.
Kent Bazemore's inbounds pass was converted into an alley-oop layup by Wesley Johnson with 6.9 seconds to go. Lillard then gave up his dribble at the top of the 3-point line and misfired on his desperation attempt.
"They started the game off a lot better than we did and we ended up playing out of a hole," said Lillard, who is questionable Wednesday with a virus.
Portland trailed 33-20 after the first quarter and pulled within 63-56 at halftime. The Blazers won the next two quarters (50-44).
The loss ended a five-game winning streak for Portland, which is 2-1 on the homestand and still an impressive 23-8 in the Rose City. LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points, Lillard added 20 and Robin Lopez contributed 19 points and 16 rebounds for the Blazers.
The Trail Blazers, who average an NBA-best 107.8 ppg, are currently fifth in the West standings and will start a five-game trek down south Friday against Dallas, Houston, Memphis, San Antonio and New Orleans.
Atlanta hopes to get some help back on the floor with the pending return of forward Paul Millsap. Millsap has missed the last four games with a balky knee and could get back to work in Portland.
Millsap is averaging 17.6 points and 8.3 rebounds, and his presence will help the Hawks inside against Aldridge and Lopez. Millsap is a former member of the Utah Jazz, who play in the same division as Portland, the Northwest. He is averaging 13.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in his career against the Blazers.
The Hawks have been using veteran center Elton Brand more often the last few games, as well as forward Mike Scott. Scott had 20 points and Brand added 13 in Sunday's 129-120 loss at Phoenix. Jeff Teague led the way with 29 points and Kyle Korver buried 6-of-7 3-pointers en route to 18 points for Atlanta, which opened its current six-game trip with a loss at Boston.
Korver has made at least one 3-pointer in an NBA-best 127 straight games. He has sank at least two from downtown over the past 11. Teague, meanwhile, is averaging 27.3 points in the last four games for Atlanta, which has lost three in a row and 11 of 12 games.
Phoenix shot 55 percent from the field and hit 15-of-24 3-pointers. Gerald Green scored a game-best 33 points, as the Suns led by as many as 16 points in the first half. The Suns' lead was trimmed to 95-94 and they later gathered some breathing room in the fourth quarter.
"They (Suns) shot the ball extremely well. They play with great pace. They put a lot of pressure on your defense, make or miss. Tonight our transition defense wasn't good enough," Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Atlanta's defense has been suspect lately, giving up at least 100 points in eight of the last nine games. That's bad news with a high-scoring Blazers club on the docket Wednesday. The Hawks are allowing 102.3 ppg this season and will also visit Golden State, the L.A. Clippers and Utah.
The Hawks have a 9-21 mark on the road and sit eighth in the East. They will play Portland for the first time this season and split two meetings a season ago with each prevailing on the road. Atlanta is 7-2 in the last nine games in this series, but has lost 10 of 14 trips to the Northwest region.