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Blazers wake up to defeat Bucks

McCollum, Lillard lead way to fifth straight victory

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer
Published: February 2, 2016, 10:59pm

PORTLAND — Lulls will come, that itself is a truism of the NBA season. And it was during one of those lulls Tuesday that Damian Lillard woke up the Blazers and spurred them to their fifth straight win.

The Blazers defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 107-95, behind 30 points and six assists from CJ McCollum and a double-double of 14 points and 12 assists from Lillard.

After holding a seven-point lead at halftime, the Bucks clawed back to make it a two-point game.

With the clock winding down in the third quarter, Lillard chased down his own miss after a lay-up when it looked like both teams gave up on the play.

Lillard caught the ball and drew a foul on Carter-Williams, which helped the Blazers to a six-point lead after three quarters.

“He made a heads up play he’s very alert on both ends, aware of the clock, aware of what’s going on,” Meyers Leonard said. “The momentum was kind of flowing their way. To end a quarter like that was good.”

Blazers coach Terry Stotts went with Lillard at the start of the fourth quarter — something he usually doesn’t do — which helped the Blazers keep the lead.

“It was a momentum play, we were kind of grinding,” Stotts said after the game. “When that happened, it was kind of a lull and it was a big momentum play, primarily because of that I left him in and I wanted to keep the momentum going.”

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The Blazers lost starting power forward Noah Vonleh to a left ankle injury in the third quarter and he did not return.

Although it was very painful and he walked with a limp after the game, he said that X-rays were negative and that it’s “nothing major.”

The Blazers got everything going through the penetration of Lillard and McCollum.

The drives to the rim sucked the struggling Bucks defense into the paint and left the 3-point line completely exposed.

The player who benefitted most from the Bucks poor 3-point defense was Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu.

Aminu finished with 16 points, 10 of which came in the first quarter, and five rebounds.

The Blazers bench continued their solid play Tuesday.

Meyers Leonard made his 3-pointers (3-of-7 from beyond the arc) and Ed Davis brought his activity (seven rebounds) and Allen Crabbe did his thing (11 points on seven shots).

Tuesday, the bench player who stole the show was Gerald Henderson, who had one of his best stretches of play as a Blazer in the fourth quarter.

He had 14 points and nine rebounds on the night, but he scored 13 of his points and grabbed five of his rebounds in the fourth quarter

Given that he will be an unrestricted free-agent after the season, Henderson has been seen as a logical candidate to be traded.

No matter his fate, Henderson has helped the Blazers as of late, averaging 10.4 points per game and four rebounds since getting more minutes as a result of Stotts’ tightening of the rotation.

“The last few games, I feel like he was trying to find a groove and finally, playing the way he’s capable of,” Leonard said.

The bench was excellent, but McCollum had an excellent game as well, continuing his breakout season.

“CJ had a game going all night that broke us down,” Bucks guard Khris Middleton said after leading the Bucks with 21 points.

Shortly after the game got tight in the second half, Vonleh went down, but the Blazers were persistent, epitomized by the final possession of the third quarter as Lillard once again put his team in position to win.

The Blazers hold a half-game lead over Utah for the 8th seed in the Western Conference and trail 7th place Houston by 1 1/2 games.

“The way we’re playing now is how we envisioned at this point in the season,” Crabbe said.

Columbian Trail Blazers Writer