PORTLAND, Ore. — Missing their two starting forwards could have been a problem for the Portland Trail Blazers. Instead, it was an opportunity.
Damian Lillard had 28 points and 10 assists to lead the Blazers to a 97-87 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 15, despite the absences of LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum.
Three-time All-Star Aldridge was out with an upper respiratory illness. Batum missed his third game with a bruised knee. Coach Terry Stotts inserted little-used Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard into their places in the lineup.
Fortified by strong bench play, Portland didn’t miss a beat.
“The contributions of everybody off the bench — it was definitely a team win.” Stotts said. “It just shows the young guys are getting better.”
Brook Lopez led Brooklyn with 21 points, matching up against twin brother Robin for the first time in two years. Joe Johnson added 20 points and Deron Williams had 19 for the Nets, who were coming off losses to Phoenix and Golden State.
Reserve center Chris Kaman scored 12 for Portland and Leonard had a career-high 12 rebounds.
The Blazers have won four straight.
They carried a double-digit lead until late in the fourth quarter, when Kevin Garnett made two free throws and Mirza Teletovic scored at the hoop to get Brooklyn within 88-82. However, Wesley Matthews countered with a 3-pointer for Portland and the Nets got no closer.
“At the end of the game we were right there, we got to where we wanted to get,” Brook Lopez said. “We just didn’t finish.”
The Blazers went on an 11-2 run at the end of the first quarter to take a 24-15 lead. Williams scored Brooklyn’s first 10 points of the second, but the Nets failed to close the gap and Portland took a 50-39 lead into the half.
Lillard and Robin Lopez each scored eight points in the third for Portland, with Lillard giving Portland a 66-53 lead with a 3-pointer midway through the quarter.