Hawks Fall Behind Early, Drop Game To Portland

ATLANTA – Damian Lillard scored 27 points and CJ McCollum added 22 as the Portland Trail Blazers snapped a string of five straight losses to the Atlanta Hawks with a 113-97 victory on Saturday.

Reserve Allen Crabbe hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points while center Jusuf Nurkic had a strong all-round game with 12 points, nine rebounds, six blocks and five assists as the Trail Blazers (31-37) improved to 7-2 in March.

Portland also moved to within two games of the eighth-place Denver Nuggets for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Denver is hosting the Houston Rockets Saturday night.

Ersan Ilyasova, starting for the Hawks (37-32) in place of Paul Millsap, had 23 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 22. Dwight Howard added 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Millsap, a four-time All-Star who leads Atlanta in scoring, experienced left knee tightness warming up and was a late scratch.

The Trail Blazers, who made 13 of their first 15 shots, hit 76.2 percent in the first quarter to the Hawks 16 percent while going up 40-18 and led 63-46 at halftime.

Lillard scored 13 of his 14 first-half points in the opening quarter, making 5 of 6 shots and converting one of his two 3-pointers into a four-point play.

Lillard had been held below 20 points in five of his previous eight games against Atlanta and his 16.9 career mark against the Hawks coming in was tied for the lowest scoring average against an opponent.

The Hawks closed to 85-73 going into the fourth quarter, but the Trail Blazers led by 21 points midway in the quarter and coasted the rest of the way.

Evan Turner returned for the Trail Blazers after breaking his right hand five weeks ago, but missed his first six shots and scored just two points off the bench in 18 minutes.

NOTES: Trail Blazers G/F Evan Turner returned after breaking his right hand in a game at Dallas on Feb. 7. … Portland was 7-7 without Turner, who was averaging 9.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists when injured. … F Paul Millsap, the Hawks’ leading scorer at 18.1 points per game, was a late scratch because of left knee tightness. Millsap, also second on the team in rebounding (7.7) and assists (3.8), was replaced in the starting lineup by F Ersan Ilyasova. … C Dwight Howard, who received his 13 technical foul Saturday, is the first Hawk since Dikembe Mutombo in 1999-2000 to reach 800 rebounds in a season. … Hawks G/F Mike Dunleavy (ankle) hasn’t played since Feb. 24 and there remains no timetable for his return. … The Hawks forced overtime on a shot by Millsap at the buzzer when the teams played in Portland on Feb. 13 and scored the final 12 points of the extra period for a 109-104 victory. … The Trail Blazers conclude their five-game road trip at Miami on Sunday. … Atlanta plays its next three games on the road, beginning at Charlotte on Monday.

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