Aldridge hopes to find his shooting touch on road trip

Forward is struggling since his return from injury

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers writer

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The Trail Blazers and their recently stingy defense got back on track against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday before the team embarked on a five-game road trip on Thursday morning.

The other matter at hand is that of their superstar forward's lost timing after his 1-of-13 performance.

In his game against the Hawks, LaMarcus Aldridge said he was forcing the issue at times in order to find his rhythm, and it led to bad shots.

"My timing is just off. I haven't really felt that my timing has been great. I've been really trying to find it and then I miss," he said.

He did say, however, that he would work after practice to find that rhythm again when the Blazers play against the Mavericks in his hometown of Dallas.

Blazers coach Terry Stotts feels that one reason he isn't in his normal rhythm is because of his minutes restriction that has been placed on him.

"We got to get LA back into rhythm," Stotts said. "I think the minutes situation is a little bit frustrating for him. He was working hard, the shot just wasn't falling for him."

Some questioned him if he was compensating because of his groin injury, but Aldridge rebuffed those claims.

"I'm not favoring anything," said Aldridge. "It's just timing, it's just basketball timing. Playing basketball. Guys hit me with great passes, but my timing is just off right now."

Stotts also notes that Aldridge is playing during different stretches of the game than he was accustomed to before the injury.

On Friday, the Blazers will face the Mavericks, who have lost three straight and are currently one game ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies in the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoffs.

They will face the aforementioned Grizzlies, the San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans and biggest of all, the Houston Rockets, with whom they've been in a deadlock for playoff position in the West for several weeks.

The Blazers have split the previous two games with the Mavericks. Dallas won the first on Dec. 7 on a buzzer-beater by Monta Ellis. The Blazers won by 16 on Jan. 18 in a game that wasn't as close as the score would indicate.

Portland has an opportunity to win the season series from second-place San Antonio and pick up a game on them in the standings.

They can also even the series against the Rockets, which would shift the tiebreaker to conference record where the Blazers have a slight edge.

Needless to say, with a trip heavy on West teams, it becomes even more important if they manage a split with Houston.

"It's going to be a really tough trip for us," Aldridge said. "But if we go out and take care of business and keep playing defense like we did tonight then anything is possible."