LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 points, and the Blazers used a big first quarter to beat the Bobcats 88-74 on Wednesday night.
The 6-foot-11 Aldridge was 6-for-7 in the first quarter as Portland rolled to a 32-18 lead. The Bobcats, coming off a double-overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers the previous night in a game where they lost scoring leader Gerald Wallace to an injury, never came closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
"We knew they played last night probably got in here really late, so we wanted to keep the pressure on them both ways, offensively and defensively," Portland coach Nate McMillan said.
Portland (28-17) won its third consecutive game, and pulled within 1½ games of first-place Denver in the Northwest Division. The Blazers are a season-high 11 games over .500.
Aldridge scored more than half his points during the first quarter, and was responsible for a run late in the quarter that helped Portland establish a comfortable lead. The third-year forward was particularly menacing inside, where he scored five of his six first-quarter baskets on dunks or layups.
"Coach talked to me about going inside. He felt like having [Boris] Diaw, a smaller big on me, I should be able to get deep post position and go to the basket," Aldridge said. "So I just did what he told me to do."
A late first-quarter run separated Portland from Charlotte. With Portland up 19-18, Aldridge scored back-to-back baskets to help the Blazers finish the quarter with 13 straight points. The 17-0 run extended into the early minutes of the second quarter to give Portland a 36-18 lead.
"As hard as we tried that first quarter, it just wasn't clicking," Charlotte guard Raja Bell said. "Our bodies weren't ready to go. It took us a while to warm up, and they exploited that."
Like Aldridge, Portland's Brandon Roy also started fast, scoring 13 of his 17 points during the first half. Blazers center Greg Oden had 14 points and 14 rebounds. It was Oden's fourth double-double in six games, and 14th of the season.
Charlotte (19-27) was without Wallace, who suffered a partially collapsed left lung and fractured rib in the victory over the Lakers.
Wallace scored 15 points before a flagrant foul by Andrew Bynum knocked him to the floor with 2:08 left in the fourth quarter. Charlotte released a statement Wednesday saying that Wallace had 30 to 40 percent of his left lung collapse as well as a non-displaced fracture of the fifth rib.
Charlotte never allowed the game to turn into a rout, but the Bobcats were unable to make a bona fide run at Portland, either. Portland's largest lead was 20 points late in the third quarter.
"After what we went through last night and the trip here, I was proud we didn't pack it in and we kept competing," Charlotte coach Larry Brown said.
Emeka Okafor led the Bobcats with 18 points, and Bell had 16. Portland clobbered Charlotte on the boards, outrebounding the Bobcats 45-26. But the Blazers were far from perfect, as they had 17 turnovers and scored only 34 points during the second half.
"We were too careless with the ball. Our turnovers and the second-chance points we allowed could have been trouble," McMillan said.
Oden and Portland teammate Rudy Fernandez were named Wednesday to the Rookie Challenge during NBA All-Star weekend. The 7-foot Oden, the No. 1 pick of the 2007 draft, is averaging 8.8 points and 7.2 rebounds, while Fernandez, also a 2007 first-round pick playing in his first season, is averaging 10.8 points. ... Portland point guard Steve Blake, who returned to the lineup Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers after missing five games with a shoulder injury, was inactive against the Bobcats. ... Charlotte and Portland split their two-game season series. ... Portland is 12-0 when leading at halftime in the Rose Garden this season.
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