PORTLAND, OREGON (AP) — Damian Lillard just knew.
His shot to end the third quarter against Charlotte was listed at 47 feet in the official statistics.
“I was like, man, that’s going to have a chance,” Lillard said. “It was a good shot.”
The rest of the game wasn’t nearly as certain for the Portland Trail Blazers, who escaped with a 115-112 victory yesterday.
Lillard finished with 30 points while Anthony Tolliver had a season-high 16, all in the fourth quarter. CJ McCollum added 27 as the Blazers snapped a two-game overall losing streak and a four-game skid at the Moda Center.
The Blazers, who led by as many as 17 points in the first half before Charlotte closed the gap and took a third-quarter lead, have won their last six games against the Hornets.
Tolliver’s three-pointer put Portland up 102-94 but Dwayne Bacon answered with a three for the Hornets to keep it close.
Cody Zeller’s layup pulled Charlotte within 109-107 with just over three minutes to go and P J Washington made a pair of free throws to tie it. Tolliver’s three-pointer gave the Blazers a 112-109 with 2:11 left before Carmelo Anthony had a key steal and Lillard made a layup.
But Devonte’ Graham’s three-pointer got the Hornets within two points. Lillard made the first of a pair of free throws for a slight cushion, and Graham’s three-pointer in a scramble at the buzzer was blocked by Kent Bazemore. Terry Rozier slipped trying to get open.
Both teams have been struggling to start the new year. Portland currently sits at 11th in the Western Conference while the Hornets are in ninth in the East.
Rozier had 27 points for the Hornets, who were coming off a 100-92 loss at Phoenix the night before. The game was the third of a four-game road trip.
“It’s stressful. It hurts and it should hurt,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “But this is only going to make us stronger, more resilient. Our guys are showing growth in these moments.”
Tolliver said his fourth quarter was all about persistence.
“That’s who I am, that’s what’s allowed me to play in the league as long as I have,” he said. “Just being able to stay with it, no matter what the circumstances are. Trusting my work, trusting my faith and just being able to go out there and play with a lot of confidence whether I’m zero for five or five for five.”
Hassan Whiteside was back in Portland’s starting lineup after missing last Saturday’s loss to Milwaukee because of a respiratory illness. But Mario Hezonja missed the game because of a sore back.
Borrego started Zeller at centre for Bismack Biyombo, who did not play. The teams appeared to be fairly evenly matched through the first quarter, but Portland began to pull away midway through the second, when McCollum’s driving layup made it 43-37.
Gary Trent Jr capped an 11-0 Portland run with a three-pointer that put the Blazers ahead 52-37.
The Blazers took a 62-46 lead into the break, led by McCollum with 20 points in 16 minutes.
The Hornets hit four straight three-pointers to open the second half, closing the gap to 62-58. McCollum’s three ended the run.
Graham’s three-pointer got the Hornets within 67-66, but they couldn’t pull ahead until Willy Hernangomez’s layup made it 80-78. Charlotte made nine three-pointers in the third quarter alone.
Lillard’s heave from more than 40 feet out gave the Blazers a 91-89 lead to start the final quarter.
“That’s a good way to finish off the quarter — it was a rough quarter,” Lillard said. “We allowed them to shoot a bunch of 3s and that’s not how we want to lose the lead, but it happened and we just had to find a way. And we did that.”