ATLANTA (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 27 points and the Portland Trail Blazers took control with a dominant opening quarter to beat the Atlanta Hawks 113-97 on Saturday night.
The Trail Blazers, who have won seven of nine, began the night 2 1/2 games behind Denver for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
The Hawks have lost three straight, including the last two at home.
Atlanta held out four-time All-Star forward Paul Millsap after he experienced tightness in his left knee during pregame warmups. Ersan Ilyasova, who started for Millsap, had 23 points. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 22.
The Trail Blazers took command with a strong start, making 11 of their first 12 shots from the field. A jumper by Lillard pushed the advantage to 32-12, and Portland outscored the Hawks 40-18 in the quarter – its biggest margin in any period this season.
Atlanta’s Dwight Howard drew a technical foul after he swung his elbow and Jusuf Nurkic hit the floor midway through the third period. Nurkic was left sitting on the court, rubbing his chin. Officials called the technical following a review of the play.
The Hawks twice cut the deficit to 11 early in the fourth, including at 89-78 following a layup by Malcolm Delaney. The Trail Blazers quickly answered with a layup by McCollum.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer immediately called a timeout, charged onto the court and confronted Howard, apparently about the center’s lack of defense on the play.
Howard remained in the game, but the Hawks’ comeback attempt never regained its momentum. Lillard had a 3-pointer and three free throws in a 10-0 run that increased the lead to 101-80.
Trail Blazers: Portland forward Evan Turner had two points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes after missing 14 games with a broken right hand. The Blazers were 7-7 without Turner, who got hurt on Feb. 7. Turner entered with 3:35 remaining in the first quarter. He played with a protective pad covering part of his right hand. … Instead of returning to Portland, the Trail Blazers flew to Atlanta following Wednesday night’s 110-106 win at San Antonio. … Noah Vonleh had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Nurkic had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Hawks: Howard had 14 points and 10 rebounds. … Ilyasova hit two 3-pointers for six of Atlanta’s first eight points. … The Hawks tried to recover from their woeful 4-for-25 first quarter by shooting 60 percent (12 of 20) in the second. Even so, they outscored the Trail Blazers only 28-23 and still trailed 63-46 at halftime. … Kent Bazemore left in the fourth quarter with a bruised right knee.