Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - LaMarcus Aldridge scored 19 points with 14 rebounds to help the Portland Trail Blazers snap a two-game losing streak with a 95-85 victory over the struggling Indiana Pacers. Damian Lillard managed to contribute 18 points on 7-of-22 shooting, while Nicholas Batum and Wesley Matthews netted 14 and 12 points, respectively, in the win. I think our minds our on the defensive end, said Matthews. The offense seemed to be flowing a little bit, but mainly because of what we were doing on the defensive end. The Blazers closed a five-game road trip with a 3-2 mark. C.J. Watson deposited a season-high 23 points and Rodney Stuckey added 14 points with a career-high 14 rebounds in the Pacers eighth straight loss. We have been close in a lot of these games but we gotta keep grinding, Indiana coach Frank Vogel said of the losing streak. We have to work at it everyday and get better everyday. Indiana led 23-22 after the first quarter, then Portland gained some separation in the second. Matthews hit consecutive 3-pointers to cap an 11-2 run less than two minutes into the quarter. The Blazers took advantage of a 3:04 scoreless drought from the Pacers later in the frame. In the midst of the dry spell, Joel Freeland netted a pair of baskets during an 8-0 run that made it 44-30. Solomon Hill ended the run on a bank shot with 5:30 remaining in the half. Portland stretched its lead to 58-38 at the break. The Blazers kept the momentum moving to start the second half, as Aldridge scored nine points during an 11-2 run to open the stanza. Watsons three free throws late in the quarter closed a 7-0 spurt that brought the hosts to within 82-66 entering the fourth. Portland scored only two points over the first seven-plus minutes in the fourth which allowed the Pacers back into the game. Watsons 3 with just under five minutes to go cut the deficit to eight, but the visitors countered with an 11-4 flurry that sealed it. Game Notes Chris Kaman scored 10 points with six rebounds in the win ... David West tallied 12 points and Roy Hibbert had 10 points with 10 rebounds for Indiana ... Portland had a 44-34 edge in the paint ... The Pacers were limited to 38.6 percent shooting from the field. Anthony DeSclafani Jersey
. Portland won Game 4 Sunday night at the Moda Center and are now up 3-1. The last time the Blazers won a playoff series came in the 2000 Western Conference semifinals against the Utah Jazz. Scooter Gennett Jersey
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. This weeks Raptors Report puts a bow on Gays brief, 10-month tenure in Toronto and ponders how his absence will affect the teams offence. Are they a better team without him? In addition to acquiring some valuable cap flexibility, what impact will the four incoming players have this season and beyond? Click here for the Dec.CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Panthers say theyd like to find a replacement for longtime No. 1 wide receiver Steve Smith in this years NFL draft. The big question is when theyll do it. The Panthers have the 28th overall pick, but the NFC South champions have a variety of needs after getting hit hard in free agency, and could go in a number of directions with their first-round choice. General manager Dave Gettleman said recently that wide receiver, offensive tackle and cornerback are among the teams top needs, but qualified that statement by adding he wont got out of his way to land one. "When you reach for a position of need youre in trouble," he said. Gettleman said he has some reservations about drafting a receiver in the first round because it often takes them longer to adjust to the NFL game than those who play other positions. "History tells you that its a very difficult position to assimilate into (the NFL), especially with the current game being played at the college level," Gettleman said. Gettleman called it a "wide receiver heavy" draft that includes several players whove put up big numbers. He said the trick is finding guys who can easily make the transition to the next level. "Ill look at a guy and hes caught 90 balls ... but of those 45 were flash screens," Gettleman said. "The other 45 he caught, he ran to three spots. So, do they understand coverage? Theyre going to have to learn the whole route tree. How long is it going to take them to assimilate? Its an issue. Its a problem." Smith was released in a salary cap move earlier this off-season. Replacing his toughness and production wont be easy. He caught 836 passes for 12,197 yards and 67 touchdowns for the Panthers in 13 seasons. However, after averaging 76 receptions for 1,284 yards receiving and 5.5 touchdowns in his first two seasons playing with quarterback Cam Newton, Smiths numbers fell off in 2013. He caught 64 passes for 745 yards and four TDs. The Panthers signed free agents Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood, but none is expected to become the next No. 1 receiver in Carolina. Five things to watch from the Panthhers in the draft: ON THE FRONT BURNER: Jordan Gross retired this off-season, leaving a huge hole at left tackle — one the Panthers potentially could address in Round 1.dddddddddddd. Gettleman said there are some tackles in the draft dont have "left tackle feet," but said that doesnt necessarily matter. "There are only so many elite tackles," he said. "There are plenty of guys playing left tackle in this league that dont have classic left tackle feet." Finding a left tackle might take on added importance given Newton is coming off ankle surgery this off-season. FIRST ROUND SUCCESS: The Panthers have had tremendous success with their first-round picks the last three seasons. They grabbed defensive tackle Star Lotulelei from Utah at No. 14 in 2013, and he looks like hes going to be around the league for quite a while. They drafted linebacker Luke Kuechly at No. 11 in 2012 and quarterback Cam Newton first overall the year before that. Kuechly was the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, while Newton was the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011. BLUE GOOSE: Last year, Gettleman said the Panthers needed to add some "hog mollies," or big linemen. This year, the Boston native switched gears, saying if there is a "blue goose" pass rusher available at No. 28 he wouldnt pass on him. Tough to know what a blue-winged bird native to Ethiopia has to do with building a football team, though. CORNERBACK ON RADAR: The Panthers lost starting cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to Minnesota in free agency. While they signed free agent Antoine Cason, dont rule out cornerback as an option with one of the teams top three picks. The Panthers have one pick in each of the seven rounds. DONT BE REACHING: The Panthers are determined not to reach for picks at positions of need. They followed that plan last year and took defensive tackle Kawaan Short from Purdue in the second round — even after selecting Lotulelei in the first. "Last year, K.K. (Short) was obviously the best value in that second-round pick," Gettleman said. ___ AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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