Trail Blazers-Nets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 25, 2012
It didn't take long for the Nets to start feeling at home at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Portland Trail Blazers won't be playing at home for a while. Brooklyn looks to extend its best home start in a decade on Sunday when Portland opens a season-high seven-game trip. After going 9-24 at home last season when based in New Jersey, the new-look Nets (7-4) have won five of six in Brooklyn following Friday's 86-76 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. Off to its best home start since opening 18-1 in 2002-03, Brooklyn limited the Clippers to 10 second-half field goals and is now holding opponents to 87.0 points per game on 41.5 percent shooting during its four-game home winning streak. "I was talking to MarShon (Brooks) on the bench, I was like, 'Man, we're just getting stop after stop,'" center Brook Lopez said Friday. "And you know we started converting on the other end, and that was huge for us.'' Lopez is a major reason the Nets are eyeing their first 5-0 stretch at home since March 4-14, 2011. He's increased his team-best scoring average to 19.4 with 71 points over the last three contests. "I am getting a lot of easy looks thanks to them," said Lopez, who paced the Nets with 26 on Friday. Point guard Deron Williams is among the league's best facilitators with 8.2 assists per game, but he's shooting 40.7 percent after missing 46 of 69 shots, including 22 of 30 from 3-point range, over the last six contests. Brooklyn's Joe Johnson enjoyed his best shooting performance of the season (8 for 12) on Friday, but he's hitting a woeful 38.7 percent. Portland's Wesley Matthews and rookie Damian Lillard have been shooting at a much higher rate. Lillard is hitting 57.7 percent from the field - including 15 of 31 from 3-point range - and scoring a team-best 23.4 points per game while helping Portland win four of five, while Matthews is averaging 19.4 points during this stretch on 52.9 percent shooting. Matthews (30) and Lillard (28) each had season high in points and were a combined 9 for 14 from beyond the arc in Friday's 103-95 victory over Minnesota. "They came out ready to go, made shots and that's big for us," LaMarcus Aldridge told the Blazers' official website. Portland (6-6), though, has plenty of issues as it hits the road for seven straight against Eastern Conference opponents. The Blazers are ranked near the bottom of the league in rebounds (39.2 per game) and points per game in the paint (33.3), and their bench is averaging a NBA-worst 12.5 points. "Sometimes it's not going to be defined by a box score or winning a certain category, it's just playing with a rhythm on the offensive end and with a certain amount of intensity and grit on the defensive end," coach Terry Stotts said after his team held the Timberwolves to 17 fourth-quarter points and 15 assists - season lows for a Blazers opponent. Portland went 3-6 on the road versus East opponents last season. "It's a long road trip, a lot of games," Aldridge said. "Some are decent teams so we have to be ready to go." The Trail Blazers have won 13 of 17 in this series following a 101-88 victory on April 4. Portland won four straight at the Nets before losing 98-96 in its last visit on Nov. 28, 2010.
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