Trail Blazers-Hornets Preview
By TAYLOR BECHTOLD
(AP) -- The Portland Trail Blazers haven't been able to stop anybody lately, something they'll need to fix quickly if they hope to stay in the Western Conference playoff picture.
Stopping their current losing streak may not be easy against a New Orleans Hornets team that hopes to build on its recent success.
The Blazers will try to get back on track with their sixth straight win over the Hornets on Wednesday night when they wrap up a long road swing.
Following a season-worst six-game losing streak, Portland (25-27) appeared to be headed in the right direction with five wins in its next seven contests.
The Blazers, however, have followed that up with four straight road losses, the latest a 117-104 defeat in Miami on Tuesday as the Heat closed on a 16-2 run. As a result, Portland has fallen further behind eighth-place Houston in the West standings.
"I thought it was a good effort by our team," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "Miami's one of the best if not the best team in the league right now and they are playing at a high level. We matched it for about 44 minutes."
Damian Lillard bounced back from his worst performance as a pro - a 1-of-16 shooting, four-point effort in Orlando on Sunday - with 33 points, but Portland continues to have defensive problems. The Blazers have allowed an average of 112.5 points on 53.6 percent shooting - including 43.8 percent from 3-point range - during their skid.
The Blazers also allow an NBA-worst 45.7 points in the paint per game. That's likely to be an area of concern against a New Orleans team that's averaging 45.0 points in the lane this month.
The Hornets held a 46-36 advantage inside on Dec. 16, but Portland escaped with a 95-94 home win on Lillard's game-winning 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left.
After playing eight of nine on the road, Monty Williams' club hopes to take advantage of a stretch with nine of its next 12 in New Orleans. The Hornets have bounced back from a four-game losing streak to win three of four after beating Detroit 105-86 on Monday.
"We wanted to finish this road trip well, and I think we showed some growth in our team," forward Al-Farouq Aminu said.
Robin Lopez has played a key role, averaging 19.7 points on 63.2 percent shooting in his last three games. Ryan Anderson had 31 points against the Pistons, and has made 30 of 65 (46.2 percent) from 3-point range in his last nine.
Anderson was 7 of 10 from long distance on the way to 26 points in the first meeting, while Greivis Vasquez had 23 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.
J.J. Hickson had 24 points and 16 rebounds for Portland in that contest, but has averaged 10.0 points over his last five games. LaMarcus Aldridge, though, has scored 27.4 per game on 60.2 percent shooting in that stretch.
Portland has averaged 102.5 points in its last five games and should be able to find open looks against New Orleans, which has allowed 101.9 points per game over its last 13.
The Hornets have won five of seven at home, while the Blazers have lost eight of nine on the road.
Updated February 13, 2013