Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
The Portland Trail Blazers blew a 16 point second-half lead, then held off the New Orleans Hornets with a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Damian Lillard.
The Blazers were led by Nicolas Batum, with the über-rare five-by-five (11 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 steals, 5 blocks), and JJ Hickson (24 points, 16 rebounds). LaMarcus Aldridge (20 points), and Damian Lillard (16 points, 4 assists) provided support.
On the injury front, Wesley Matthews started the game, but left within minutes of the opening tip. And Aldridge hurt his ankle by landing on another player's foot. We'll update when we know his status.
First Half: The Blazers showed their experience and stayed ahead of New Orleans for most of the half. Sasha Pavlovic covered for Matthews, sparking Portland to a nice lead by the middle of the second quarter. The Hornets, playing mostly in the paint, came back against the Blazers bench. However, when the Portland starters returned, they grew the lead to 13, before finishing the half up 11.
These guys make JJ look like an all star. too bad we cant play NO every night!
Third Quarter: Ryan Anderson, hot all night, hit two more three-pointers to cut the lead into single-digits, but Lillard and Victor Claver got both back. And right around then, the Blazer starters began to feel it. They took the game at New Orleans, scoring inside (including a beautiful Claver pass for an Aldridge dunk) and defending the lane. Hickson caught fire and couldn't miss. The Hornets stayed within reach, but only by hitting some very tough shots. The Blazers led by 13 after three.
Fourth Quarter: The Blazers continued to leave the Hornets open for three, and it burned them again, dropping their lead to 7. Hickson returned for the Blazers, but the Hornets still cut the lead to 5 with five minutes left. Then 4 with four minutes left. Then 3 with three minutes left (thanks to another open Anderson three). The Blazers kept missing chance after chance to push the lead, letting the Hornets hang around with a chance to tie. Another offensive rebound for New Orleans cut the lead to 1. After Anderson flopped, Aldridge gave the Blazers a 3 point lead with 1 minute left.
Austin Rivers, after a quiet night, hit a three to tie the game. Lillard missed a three in turn, and Aldridge turned his ankle in the play. Without him, the Hornets had a chance for the win with 26 seconds left. The Hornets missed a floater, and Davis tipped the ball out of bounds. After the obligatory foul-to-give, the Blazers had the ball and 4 seconds left. With a shot at the win, they gave Lillard the chance. He responded with this:
Yep, he stutter-stepped and launched a three. Swish, as the crowd erupts. The Hornets were given 0.3 seconds on the clock for a last play, and to everyone's confusion, alley-ooped for a free two-points as the buzzer sounded.
Stay tuned for Dave's analysis and Ben's Media Row Report. The next game is Thursday night, at home against Denver. -- Tim