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Blazers beat Sonics to keep rolling

The words used to spill out of coach Nate McMillan's mouth regularly after Portland Trail Blazers' losses: When their shots were not falling, the Blazers could not let it affect other areas of their game.
/ Source: KGW-TV

Portland, Oregon The words used to spill out of coach Nate McMillan's mouth regularly after Portland Trail Blazers' losses: When their shots were not falling, the Blazers could not let it affect other areas of their game.

So chalk up another example of how the Blazers are evolving during their winning streak.

Despite making fewer than 40 percent of their shot attempts for just the third time this year and watching offensive leaders LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy and Travis Outlaw struggle to carry the Blazers the way they have throughout Portland's win streak, the Blazers won their 11th consecutive game on Tuesday, 89-79 over Seattle, by tightening up in other areas.

Portland turned its missed shots into offensive rebounds and second-chance points. It tightened up defensively to limit an opponent to less than 80 points for the third time this season. And it executed calmly and precisely, committing a season-low six turnovers.

"Some nights you're not going to shoot the ball well, and you've got to find ways of winning the game," McMillan said. "We tightened up defensively, we got stops, and we were able to build a nice cushion."

And as a result, the Blazers (16-12) moved a half-game behind Denver for the Northwest Division lead while tying the third-longest winning streak in franchise history.

Only a 16-game streak during the 1990-91 season and a 12-game stretch in 2001-02 are longer.

Portland also improved to 13-1 on Christmas Day games.

It was a significant turn from the franchise's recent signature struggles, when sputtering offensively often led to other troubles.

The Blazers lost by an average of 14 points the only other games this year in which they shot worse than 40 percent - a problem that had carried over from the past two seasons.

Poor shooting often led them to force possessions and commit turnovers or fail to make key defensive stops.

McMillan often said after those losses that the offensive struggles affected the team's defensive mindset.

But Tuesday provided more evidence that the Blazers are becoming mentally tougher in those situations.

While Aldridge went 1 of 10 from the field for a season-low two points and Roy and Outlaw went a combined 11 of 35 for 21 points, the Blazers' defense and rebounding helped make up the difference.

Their season-high 53 rebounds - led by a season-high 16 from Joel Przybilla - helped make up for their season-low 38.7 percent field goal shooting. And Portland used its 19 offensive rebounds to hold a 20-3 edge in second-chance points.

"That's big, man," guard Jarrett Jack said. "That's just a credit to our bigs, our wings getting in there battling, fighting underneath for those boards and digging out those offensive rebounds."

The rebounding edge helped the Blazers control Seattle's fast-tempo offense - the Sonics (8-20) were limited to six fast-break points in the final three quarters - and Portland's half-court defense kept them contained most of the night.

Rookie Kevin Durant scored a game-high 23 points, but only one other Sonic had a double-digit scoring night - Wally Szczerbiak with 19 points.

Portland scored 15 points off Seattle's 13 turnovers, limited the Sonics to 35 second-half points - the fewest the Blazers have allowed this season - and used that defense to pull away with a 16-2 third-quarter run that pushed the Blazers in front 66-50 with 4:32 remaining in the third quarter.

"I think the thing that does not get a lot of credit is our defense," Roy said. "I think in the past we were giving up 100 points and we couldn't stop anybody. So we had to put a lot of pressure on our offense. But now when we come to the sideline coach is like, 'OK, now it's time to tighten up,' and we have the personnel to do it now."