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  • 26 Dec 2014

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Matthews' D, Batum's boards lift Blazers past Hawks

There wasn't a lot for an ESPN national audience to sink its teeth into Wednesday night at the Moda Center.

There was Nicolas Batum rebounding with Rodman-like frequency and Kyle Korver masquerading as Josh Smith.

Along the way, there was the Trail Blazers' 102-78 pounding of a sorry Atlanta team that has tasted defeat in 12 of its last 13 outings.

It might have been right up there with the National Spelling Bee and the Westminster Dog show on the "riveting quotient" nationwide, but it played well in River City -- especially following Portland's 107-106 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Monday night.

"A really good bounce-back win for us," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "A good defensive effort. We shared the ball. An all-around good game for us. There was a lot to like."

Not from Atlanta's perspective.

The Hawks (26-33) -- minus injured centers Al Horford and Gustavo Ayon and power forward Paul Millsap -- are somehow hanging onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but fading fast. They shot .330 from the field, including 4 for 27 from 3-point range, and were outrebounded 53-37 on the third stop of a six-game road swing.

Portland (42-19) has won six of seven as it heads into a rugged five-game trip that begins Friday night at Dallas. The Blazers never trailed, leading 29-19 after one quarter and 56-38 at the half. The margin grew to 29 early in the fourth quarter after Stotts had already called off the dogs.

The Blazers shot better from 3-point range (.448) than from the field (.443), but won this one with defense and rebounding domination of the much-smaller Hawks.

Wesley Matthews provided much of the former, doing the majority of the defensive work on Korver, who saw his NBA-record streak for making at least one 3-pointer end at 127 games.

Korver, with Matthews hounding him every step of the way, was 1 for 9 from the field and 0 for 5 from beyond the arc.

"Wes was like his boyfriend," Batum said with a grin. "They were hugging each other. 'Everywhere he go, I go.' Wes did a great job."

"We didn't go in saying, 'Let's stop the streak,' but (Korver's 3-point shooting) was a priority in the game plan," Stotts said. "It was a team thing, but Wes took a lot of pride in that challenge. They were going head-to-head. It was fun to watch."

Korver said he was "a little bummed, for sure, but it was good while it lasted. Some day, we'll look back and be proud. But it was a tough game all-around for us, and that was part of it."

Another part of it was Batum's sudden emergence as a force on the backboards. The 6-8 small forward grabbed 18 rebounds in 29 minutes Wednesday night after getting 16 and 15 in his previous two outings.

"He's been great," Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge said. "He's been crashing the boards hard and rebounding great for his position. That's what we need from him."

Aldridge, meanwhile, was not great. In his third game back after missing five with a strained groin, the All-Star power forward missed his first seven shots from the field and finished 1 for 13 in 29 minutes.

"My timing is just off," Aldridge said. "Since coming back, I haven't felt my timing has been great. Tonight, I was trying to find it in the minutes I was out there. (The Hawks) were double-teaming some and digging a lot. I was trying to force the issue, but I never found my rhythm. I'll find it (Thursday) at practice."

Ironically, when Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer was asked about Aldridge pre-game, he said, "It feels like a layup every time he shoots a 17-footer."

It was just the opposite Wednesday night.

"We have to get L.A. back in a rhythm," Stotts said. "It's tough when his minutes are limited like they have been the last three games."

NOTES: Portland moved within four games of Oklahoma City (46-15) in the Northwest Division. The Blazers are in fourth place in the West behind OKC, San Antonio (44-16) and Houston (42-19). The L.A. Clippers (42-20) are a half-game back of Portland in fifth. … Stotts, when it was noted the Blazers have now clinched a winning record for the regular season: "We're just trying to rack up as many wins as we can." … It was the lowest field-goal percentage and the fewest points scored by a Portland opponent this season and two above the Atlanta season low. … Aldridge made his only basket five minutes into the third quarter. He finished with 10 points and six rebounds.

Six Blazers scored in double figures, led by reserve guard Mo Williams with 15 points and Batum with 14. No Blazer played as many as 30 minutes in the blowout. … The Blazers are 21-3 when Williams scores in double figures. … Batum, who was 3 for 5 from 3-point range, became the first player in Portland history with 18 rebounds and three treys in a game. … It was the eighth double-double of the season for Batum. … Batum (606) and Matthews (600) rank 3-4 on the Portland career 3-point list behind Terry Porter (773) and Damon Stoudamire (717). … The Blazers have made at least 13 3-pointers an NBA-high 12 times this season. … Portland's Thomas Robinson (knee) missed his fourth straight game. … Atlanta's Jeff Teague, who had scored at least 26 points in each of his last four games, managed only 10 on 4-for-12 shooting.

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