PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A looming seven-game road trip clouded the Trail Blazers' relief that their three-game losing streak was over.
``I think the guys know how big this road trip is for us,' LaMarcus Aldridge said after Portland beat the New Orleans Hornets 86-74 on Monday night.
Besides snapping a three-game slide, the victory got the Blazers back to .500, after they'd dropped below the mark with a discouraging 122-110 loss at home to the Timberwolves on Saturday night.
The Blazers (19-19) open their 12-night trip with another game against Minnesota on Wednesday.
``We build off this tonight,' coach Nate McMillan said. ``We know we've got a lot of work to do.'
Nicolas Batum had 19 points for the Blazers against the injury-riddled Hornets, who trailed by as many as 26 points.
Aldridge, who had just two points and three rebounds in the first half, finished with 10 points and 11 boards - but he did not play the entire fourth quarter. He did not get to the free throw line for the third straight game.
The first-time All-Star this season said he lost his rhythm because he was double-teamed.
``Teams are taking me out,' he said. ``I haven't had a clean post-up in three or four games.'
Marco Belinelli had 18 points for New Orleans, which has lost four of its last five games. At 9-29, the injury-depleted Hornets have the worst record in the Western Conference. Chris Kaman had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
``Tonight was not a sign of what kind of team we are,' Kaman said. ``As rough of a season that we've had, this is not who we are, even at this point.'
The Blazers had dropped below .500 for the first time this season with the loss to the Timberwolves on Saturday. They had lost six of their last eight games at the Rose Garden.
Searching for answers, McMillan again changed up his starting lineup, moving Raymond Felton back to the point and playing Jamal Crawford off the bench. Felton, who has struggled this season, finished with 11 points and 10 assists.
``It helped. I'll say that,' Felton said. ``It makes you hungry. It brings that hunger out of you.'
The Hornets, who have been hampered by injuries all season, saw the return of starter Trevor Ariza, who missed the last two games because of an illness. He finished with four points.
Carl Landry (sprained knee ligament) and Jason Smith (concussion) were both questionable going into the game, but did not play. New Orleans was still without Eric Gordon, who has a right knee contusion, and Emeka Okafor, who has a sore left knee.
``Right now we just have to fight through it and play hard,' Kaman said. ``We just didn't have it tonight. It's going to happen, but it's tough.'
The Blazers jumped out to a 27-17 lead to start the second quarter, but the Hornets closed the gap to 27-24 after Xavier Henry's 19-foot jumper. Portland wouldn't let them get any closer, and pulled away to a 34-24 lead on Batum's 3-pointer.
The Blazers were able to stay in front and went to the half with a 46-38 lead.
Sparked by Aldridge's putback dunk, a layup, and a jumper, Portland pulled away in the third quarter, going on a 15-2 run to go ahead 65-45.
The Hornets had just 10 points in the quarter to trail 70-48 going into the fourth quarter. It was their lowest point total for a quarter this season.
Notes: The Blazers are 3-0 in the four-game series against the Hornets this season. It's the first time Portland has won three-straight against New Orleans since they won five straight from 1999-2002... Monday's game was the first of a four-game road trip for New Orleans. The Hornets visit Sacramento on Wednesday... Aldridge's point total was his lowest this season in a Blazers' win.
The Associated Press News Service
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