The Portland Trail Blazers showed why they are one of the top contenders in the Western Conference, as they held on in the fourth quarter to beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 104-97, Wednesday night for their eighth win in ten games.
The past 48 hours have been an emotional rollercoaster for the Milwaukee Bucks, as they experienced the euphoric ecstasy of hitting the game-winning shot on Monday against Phoenix and the agony of losing Jabari Parker to a torn ACL for the season.
The Trail Blazers were also banged up, as they were without their starting center Robin Lopez, who broke his right hand Monday night in a 108-95 win against San Antonio and would be tested in the paint without Lopez. Milwaukee had recorded at least 50 points in the paint three times in its last four games before taking on Portland.
In spite of Parker’s absence from the starting lineup, the Bucks started out solid, going up 10-2 early and shooting 59 percent from the field en route to a 25-18 lead at the end of the first quarter. Portland was limited to 32 percent shooting and LaMarcus Aldridge had only six points on 3-for-7 shooting but second chance opportunities helped Portland keep them within striking distance.
Milwaukee’s strong shooting carried over into the second quarter, as they opened up a 10-point lead, 39-29, but there was a tense moment late in the quarter when forward Giannis Antetokounmpo sprained his left ankle. Antetokounmpo walked off unassisted but did not return to the game. Khris Middleton started the second half in Antetokounmpo's place and finished with 17 points. The Blazers went on a 14-2 run in the last five minutes to grab a 43-41 lead heading into halftime. Portland dominated the Bucks on the offensive boards, as they held a 9-1 advantage, but the low scoring was attributed to the turnovers as each team had at least nine in the first half.
Damian Lillard was the leading scorer at the break with 17 on 3-of-5 shooting from three.
Like the first half, the Bucks came out shooting well and went on a 9-2 run to go up, 50-45, but Portland responded with a 10-4 run to retake the lead, 55-54. However, the three-point shot kept Milwaukee in the game (6/8 in the 3rd) after going 0-for-5 in the first half, and the Bucks took the lead, 70-68, to close out the quarter.
The fourth quarter was close, as each team exchanged the lead back-and-forth the first several minutes but Portland went on a 20-9 run to take an 88-79 lead with 3:48 remaining and never looked back, as Portland would go onto win, 104-97.
Another scary moment happened with under three minutes left when Nicolas Batum went for a dunk but was nudged by Bucks forward Larry Sanders from behind, causing his hands to slip off the rim, and he crashed violently onto the floor. Luckily, after a few tense moments, Batum got up and sustained no major injuries.
The Blazers were led by Lillard, who had 29 points and seven assists, while Aldridge had 23 and combined with Robinson for 30 rebounds. The Bucks had 32 rebounds as an entire team. Brandon Knight had 24 points.
The Bucks will travel to Sacramento as their third stop in a four game road trip on Thursday, while the Trail Blazers go to San Antonio to take on the Spurs on Friday.