by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews dunks in front of Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden during Portland's win Thursday night at Moda Center.Four minutes decided the Trail Blazers' 116-103 victory over Washington Thursday night at the Rose Garden.

The last two minutes of the first half, the first two minutes of the second half.

Over that stretch, Portland outscored the Wizards 19-2, going from a 51-45 deficit to a 64-53 lead.

The Wizards (35-33) never got it closer than three points the rest of the way as the Blazers (45-24) won comfortably to end a three-game homestand as they eye their final extended road trip of the season.

"I was really pleased with the way we played, especially after the first quarter," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "We were really moving the ball. There was a nice rhythm to it. It was a game we needed before this road trip."

Portland shot superbly -- .506 from the field, .400 from 3-point range and .800 from the foul line -- and dished out 32 assists, its most since getting 32 in a 108-107 loss to Miami on Dec. 28.

"The ball was moving," said Wesley Matthews, who matched his season high with 28 points, going 8 for 16 from the field, 4 for 9 from 3-point range and 8 for 8 from the foul line. "It was a lot of fun to be out there. That's how we got on a roll, how we got to be one of the hottest teams, when the ball was flying around like that. We were on tonight."

The Blazers aren't on a roll, not after losing five of six before squeaking past hapless Milwaukee in overtime at home. Thursday's win over a decent Washington team was a positive step, though, especially after falling behind 28-23 after one quarter.

Portland's spurt at the end of the first half was what stuck in the craw of Washington coach Randy Wittman.

"We somehow have to learn," Wittman said. "We're up 51-45 … and they go on an 8-0 run. You cannot treat the game that way. You have to close out that quarter with a lead."

The Blazers -- 4 for 15 from beyond the arc in the first half -- came out smoking in the third quarter, drilling three straight 3-pointers along with a long 2 by Nicolas Batum. They were 13 for 21 from the field in the third quarter, including 6 for 11 from long distance, to go into the final period ahead 86-73.

"We did a great job of coming out with energy that third quarter," said Lillard, who had one of his best games of the season with 23 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and only one turnover in 35 minutes. "We were aggressive on the offensive end, flying around on the defensive end, getting our hands on balls."

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Thomas Robinson (left) of the Blazers defends Washington guard Andre Miller.Portland outscored Washington 33-22 in the third quarter, the Wizards making only 8 of 25 shots in the period.

"Our third-quarter defense was as important as the shot-making," Stotts said.

Lillard dueled another one of the NBA's top young point guards, John Wall, all night. Wall scored 24 points and handed out 14 assists while making 5 of 10 shots from 3-point range.

"Any time you play against an All-Star and that caliber point guard in this league, you have to bring it," Lillard said. "He played a good game. people get on him about shooting but he's improved it a lot. When he's making those 3's, that makes him even harder to guard. I'm just happy we were able to win the game."

It was Portland's fourth straight game without All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, sitting out with a sore back. Small forward Dorell Wright again started in his place, equalling his season high with 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting to go with seven rebounds and some good hustle plays in 20 minutes.

With only "one" big in the lineup most of the way, the Blazers finished 14 for 35 from 3-point range -- 10 for 20 in the second half.

"This is our second stretch having to play a smaller lineup without L.A.," Lillard said. "We've gotten a little more comfortable with it. With more spacing, we can get more shots and gives guys more opportunities to make plays."

"The thing I'm pleased about is our 'spacing' lineup is getting a rhythm," Stotts said. "It's working the way it should as far as opening the court and creating 3-point opportunities."

The Blazers embark on a five-game trip that begins Saturday at Charlotte, hoping for better results than the recent five-game trek that yielded a 1-4 record.

"We didn't fare as well as we wanted to that last road trip, to put it politely," Matthews said. "We know what we have to do. We have to show up to play. We have to play with urgency. like every game is our last."

"I'm excited about it," Lillard said. "This is another opportunity for us to win some road games at a crucial point in our season."

Lillard was asked if Thursday's win helped the Blazers regain some lost confidence.

"I wouldn't say we ever lost confidence," he said. "We got in a situation where we were desperate to get things going in the right direction.

"Right now, we're moving the ball really well, making the right plays. When you play that way, you get rewarded for it."

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Blazers forward Dorell Wright (right) tries to save the ball from going out of bounds against Wizards forward Trevor Booker.

NOTES: Stotts said Aldridge will join the Blazers on the road trip but refused to give a progress report. Said Matthews: "He looks better every day. It's between him and the staff and his body when he comes back. We're hoping for a recovery, but we want him healthy and 100 percent." … backup center Joel Freeland, out since Feb. 11 with a knee injury, said he doesn't want to come back until he is 100 percent. "Today was the first day I did anything with any movement," he said. "I'd love to get back before the end of the regular season, but I don't want any setbacks. I plan to be back for the playoffs. Anything more than that will be a bonus." … Stotts said when Aldridge returns, he'll continue to use Wright as a backup power forward. … Wright bounced back nicely from his performance against Milwaukee, in which he went 0 for 8 from the field -- 0 for 7 on 3-point attempts.

Batum had another strong all-around game with 12 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and only one turnover in 34 minutes. … Batum became the first Blazer with four straight games of at least nine rebounds and five assists since Clyde Drexler in 1989. … Batum, a 6-8 small forward, has 143 rebounds in March, 23 more than the NBA player with the next-most -- Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins with 120. … Lillard was 3 for 8 from 3-point range and upped his season total for 3's to 186, breaking the franchise record of 185 he set as a rookie last season. … Washington went without starting center Marcin Gortat, who injured his back in warmups and couldn't play. … The Wizards were also minus starting power forward Nene, who missed his 12th straight game with a knee injury. … Wall scored 13 points in the first quarter, zero in the second quarter, 11 in the third quarter and zero in the fourth quarter. … Wall got his 25th double-double of the season, second-most of the league's point guards. Batum recorded his 12th double-double while Lillard registered his sixth. … Portland finished its schedule 21-4 against Eastern Conference opponents, the best mark by any West team this season.

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Twitter: @kerryeggersby: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Mo Williams of the Blazers makes a pass in front of Wizards guard Andre Miller.

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