By Kate Hedlin
(AP) — The Portland Trail Blazers enter their next game at the Rose Garden looking to avoid extending a rare home losing streak.
They hope a visit from the New Jersey Nets goes better than the last meeting between the two.
Portland will try to avoid losing three straight at home for the first time in nearly three years when it hosts New Jersey on Saturday night.
Struggling defensively, the Trail Blazers (20-20) have lost three in a row overall, including 115-111 at Phoenix on Friday.
Wesley Matthews scored 26 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 25 to help Portland take a 13-point second-quarter lead. However, the Suns rallied and never trailed in the final 8:05 as the Blazers couldn’t get a needed stop after tying the game at 108.
“You need to get stops,” coach Nate McMillan said. “One-hundred eleven points is enough, should be enough, to win a ballgame, but defensively they shoot over 50 percent from the floor as well as from the 3-point line.”
Portland has given up at least 100 points in all three of its losses during the slide. The normally stingy defense, which is giving up 95.5 points per game, hasn’t allowed opponents to reach the century mark in four consecutive games since Dec. 2-9, 2007.
The Blazers will try to bounce back at home, where they’ve lost their last two games with both coming against Eastern Conference foes. Portland is 6-7 against teams from the East, which includes a 98-96 loss to New Jersey on Nov. 28.
The Blazers had won five in a row over the Nets, but New Jersey shot 52.5 percent and was led by 25 points from Devin Harris.
Portland hasn’t lost three in a row at home since March 29-April 6, 2008.
However, the Trail Blazers should have an easier time slowing the Nets (10-29), who have lost four in a row, including 100-88 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
New Jersey has dropped nine of 10, been held to fewer than 100 points in nine of those games and less than 90 in five.
Brook Lopez scored 35 points against the two-time defending champions, but Harris was held to six – more than 10 below his season average. The Nets pulled within 78-76 with 7 1/2 minutes to play, but the Lakers responded with a 9-0 run.
“They really want to win, and they know it takes extra work, but it’s going to take some time and some patience,” said Sasha Vujacic, who was traded to New Jersey from the Lakers exactly one month ago. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”
New Jersey, which closes a four-game trip Monday at Golden State, is 4-11 against teams from the West.
The Blazers, who haven’t been swept in a regular-season series against New Jersey since 2002-03, have won their last two home games against the Nets and 12 of the last 14 matchups in Portland.