- Associated Press - Friday, March 21, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Trail Blazers who got off to such a strong start this season re-emerged against Washington Wizards.

“The ball was moving. It was a lot of fun to be out there,” Wesley Matthews said. “That’s how we play. That’s how we got on a roll, that’s how we got to be one of the hottest teams.”

Matthews matched his season high with 28 points, including four 3-pointers, and the Portland defeated the Wizards 116-103 on Thursday night.

Damian Lillard added 23 points and 10 assists for the Blazers, who are still playing without injured All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. Portland (45-24) remained in fifth place in the Western Conference with three victories in their last four games after slumping with a four-game losing streak.

The Wizards (35-33) have lost two straight to open four-game swing against the Western Conference while they vie for a playoff spot in the East to end a five-year absence. Washington currently sits sixth in their conference.

John Wall had 24 points and 14 assists for Washington, which trailed by as many as 17 points in the second half.

“They are a team that gets hot from time to time,” Wall said. “And they got hot and made some contested shots, they rotated the ball and guys knocked down their shots.”

Portland played small in Aldridge’s absence and finished with 32 assists on 41 field goals.

” I think right now we’re just moving the ball really well,” Lillard said. “And when you’re moving the ball, you put yourself in position to make shots.”

Wizards center Marcin Gortat was scratched from the lineup just before the game because of a lower back strain. It was the first game he’s missed this season.

Gortat, who hurt his back during pregame warmups and left the court wincing, is averaging 12.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. In Washington’s 117-111 overtime loss at Sacramento on Tuesday, Gortat had 19 points and 14 rebounds.

The Wizards started Kevin Seraphin in his place.

The Wizards are still without forward Nene, who missed his 12th gram because of a sprained left MCL.

“Things aren’t going our way right now,” Wall said. “Some guys are down, but there are no excuses. We know we should be 1-1 on this trip right now. Two more games left to put this one behind us. Win the next two, go home even.”

The Blazers, who opened the season 22-4 and rose to the top of the standings, played without Aldridge for the fourth straight game because of a lower back contusion. He is expected to return when the Blazers play at Charlotte on Saturday.

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