Hawks try to improve playoff positioning, welcome Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers collected a rare road win on Thursday night, but they need more of them if they are going to squeak into the playoffs.

The Blazers trail the Los Angeles Lakers by 3 1/2 games for the eighth and final postseason berth in the Western Conference and have to tangle with a tough Atlanta Hawks team Friday night at Philips Arena.

Portland, which had lost 14 of 16 away from home heading into Thursday's tilt with Chicago, buried the Bulls, 99-89. The Blazers were up 15 at the half, then exploded in the third. Portland built a 26-point lead after the half and a nice run from the Bulls in the final frame made it a 10-point setback.

"I thought this was one of our better defensive or best defensive games of the season," said head coach Terry Stotts. "Performance of our guys on the pick and roll defense was good and active. We covered the paint well. We talked about this as a focus especially after giving up 57 or more points in the 1st half the last couple of games."

Stotts shortened the bench against the Bulls, playing only two reserves serious minutes. LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 28 points and Damian Lillard chipped in 24. J.J. Hickson pulled down 21 rebounds.

The Hawks are playing good basketball with four wins in their last five outings. Three of the four victories came at home, including a 98-90 win on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Atlanta is fifth in the Eastern Conference and just two games behind the Brooklyn Nets, who have already clinched a playoff berth. The Hawks lead the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics by 1 1/2 games.

Versus the Bucks, Al Horford recorded his fifth straight double-double with 26 points and 15 rebounds. Jeff Teague had 27 points and 11 assists and Josh Smith scored 12 points and pulled down 16 boards.

The Hawks pulled away from the Bucks with a 29-16 third quarter. Milwaukee made a run in the fourth, but it wasn't enough.

"When we play with energy, I think we're not only are we a fun team to watch, I think we're a pretty good basketball team," said head coach Larry Drew. "We came out in the third quarter and we step it up a notch."

Kyle Korver only had nine points, but went 3-for-6 from long range. Korver has made 3-pointer in 61 straight, and with a made one on Friday night, he will tie Peja Stojakovic for the fifth-longest streak in NBA history. Korver has work to do to reach the longest mark, which belongs to Dana Barros, who made one from long range in 89 straight.

The Hawks defeated the Blazers in Portland in November and have taken seven of the last nine matchups. Portland has lost four straight in Atlanta.