Wallace, Aldridge also big in Portland's third straight victory

Wesley Matthews had been in the same kind of zone before.

'Second time,' reminded teammate Nicolas Batum. 'He did it at Minnesota.'

So Matthews' long-distance shooting display in the Trail Blazers' 110-101 victory over Philadelphia Saturday night at the Rose Garden wasn't unprecedented.

The second-year shooting guard's fireworks got Portland off to a good start, and Gerald Wallace and LaMarcus Aldridge did the heavy lifting from there as the Blazers moved within a half-game of Denver (41-29), which sits in fifth place in the Western Conference. Portland is a game ahead of New Orleans (40-31) going Sunday night's visit to Staples Center to face the Los Angeles Lakers.

Matthews finished with 28 points to go with six rebounds. Wallace had 25 points, six rebounds and season highs in assists (eight) and steals (four) while Aldridge collected 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

'Wow, Portland,' Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. 'That team played as well as any team has played against us in a long time.'

Portland shot .611 in the first half in rolling to a 62-54 advantage at intermission. Philadelphia (36-34) - going without its best all-around player, small forward Andre Iguodala (knee) - hung around and was still within 92-89 with nine minutes remaining, but the Blazers responded with a 9-0 run to put the 76ers away.

Matthews needed a heat check in the first quarter. Portland's second-year shooting guard was 6 for 6 from the field - including 5 for 5 from 3-point range - and scored 17 of Portland's first 26 points.

'I was just knocking down open shots, really,' who finished 9 for 15 from the field, including 6 for 9 on 3-point attempts. 'My teammates were finding me, and I was getting open - shooting with confidence. just playing the game, taking what came to me. It was the three-ball tonight.'

It was reminiscent of Matthews' performance against Minnesota on Jan. 7, when he scored a career-high 36 points on 10-for-18 shooting, including 7 for 10 from 3-point range.

'I don't understand why (Philadelphia defenders) go underneath the screen every time,' said teammate Nicolas Batum, who contributed 16 points. 'He's going to make you pay.'

Wallace, acquired in a Jan. 23 trade with Charlotte, had perhaps his finest all-around performance as a Blazer. He was 8 for 12 from the field, 2 for 5 from 3-point range, 7 for 8 from the foul line and had four steals in 41 minutes.

'He is playing like he did when he was an All-Star at Charlotte,' Collins said. 'He gives them that guy who can play the three and the four. You saw how many high-energy plays he made.'

Wallace also spent much time defending Philadelphia's leading scorer, Elton Brand, who finished with 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting.

'Just tried to get into him, to keep the ball out of his hands and force other guys to make shots,' Wallace said. 'If they can't get the ball, they're not going to score.'

'Gerald made big plays down the stretch, got to loose balls, hit a couple of threes,' Portland coach Nate McMillan said. 'He was in the right place at the right time. He does a nice job of playing off of guys. We matched up with Brand to try to use some speed, and he did a good job disrupting there.'

Andre Miller, who did not arrive at the arena until 40 minutes before the game after tending to out-of-town personal business, started for Portland on his 35th birthday. The veteran point guard totaled nine points, six rebounds and seven assists in 38 minutes.

'Overall, I was ready,' Miller said. 'I got to warm up. I just didn't expect to play that many minutes. I didn't even know I was going to start the game, but (McMillan) put me in there. I just tried to keep the game simple.'

NOTES: It was Portland's third straight win. ... Matthews is the first Blazer to make at least three 3-pointers in five straight games since Damon Stoudamire in February 2005. Matthews has shot .610 from beyond the arc (25 for 41) over the last eight games and has made at least one trey the last 16 games. ... The Blazers finished the game shooting .514, while the Sixers shot .500. ... Lou Williams came off the bench to lead the 76ers with 24 points. Thaddeus Young, also a reserve, added 19 on 9-for-11 shooting. ... Philadelphia got 59 points from its reserves - 35 in the first half. ... Philly (36-34) falls into a virtual tie with New York (35-33) for sixth place in the East. ... Batum's 'Mama of Africa Soiree' charity event - designed to aid mothers in Africa who are forced to give up newborn babies because they can't afford to raise them - raised between $80,000 and $85,000 at the Benson Hotel Wednesday night, the Blazers' small forward said. 'I was really happy about that,' Batum said. 'My first try at something like this, and my mom (Sylvie) was involved, but all my teammates and coaches showed up. There were more than 200 people there. That was great.'

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