Trail Blazers Hold On To Win Third-Straight On The Road Versus Hornets

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

CHARLOTTE -- The Portland Trail Blazers don’t ever seem to make it easy this season, but at least they’re making it interesting.

After leading by 16 points early in the fourth quarter, the Trail Blazers had to hold on for dear life while ducking numerous potential game-winners to come away with the 93-91 victory versus the Charlotte Hornets Saturday night at the Spectrum Center.

“Well, that was fun,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Getting three road wins in a row is pretty good. The last few minutes were kind of exciting but I was proud of the way we were able to hang on.”

The Trail Blazers are now 16-13 overall and 9-5 on the road this season. The win improves Portland’s record on their current five-game road trip to 3-1 with one game remaining. Portland has now won three-straight for the second time this season.

In the first half, it seemed as though that third-straight win might come relatively easy for a Trail Blazers team that has had to gut out nearly all of their 15 wins coming into Saturday night’s game in Charlotte. Damian Lillard had 16 points in 17 minutes, the Hornets were shooting 33 percent from the field and 18 percent from three and and Portland had five more made field goals despite taking four fewer shots, resulting in the road team taking a 49-37 lead into the intermission.

After being outscored 30-25 in the third quarter, the Trail Blazers started the fourth quarter by hitting three-straight three-pointers — two from CJ McCollum and one from Pat Connaughton — to take their largest lead of the game at 83-67 with 10:33 to play. Considering the Hornets were playing on the second night of a back-to-back and showed little ability to hit an outside shot in the first three quarters, it seemed that perhaps this might be the time the Trail Blazers could finally coast to a comfortable victory.

But that’s just not the way this Trail Blazers team does things this season. Rather than pulling away, Portland would be pulled back, with Charlotte scoring 13-straight over the next four minutes to cut the lead to 83-80 with 6:50 to play in regulation.

It would be a parade of follies for both teams from then on. The Hornets missed shot after shot after shot — they went just 7-of-25 from the field and 0-of-7 from three in the fourth — while the Trail Blazers committed a number of inexplicable turnovers — they gave the ball away eight times in the final 10 minutes — while missing four of 10 free throws, resulting in harrowing finish for both teams.

But for as many mistakes as they made, Portland managed to never let Charlotte take the lead. It looked like that might not be the case after Kemba Walker stole the ball from Lillard at halfcourt with 58 seconds to play and the Trail Blazers leading by just one. But both Evan Turner and Al-Farouq Aminu hustled back on defense to turn what looked like a go-ahead layup for Walker into an Aminu block.

Only the Trail Blazers would score in the final minute, and even then, it was only one point thanks to a McCollum free throw with 16 seconds to play. The Hornets would have a chance to tie or win the game after Aminu missed two free throws with 3.8 seconds left in regulation, but Walker’s 36-foot desperation three was well off the mark, which was a fitting end to a rather ragged affair.

“It’s the NBA, wins and losses is all that matters,” said McCollum. “No one remembers who you won them, they only remember that you lost them. So got to continue to build on that, finish the road trip off strong in Minnesota. They’re going to be ready to play, it’s going to be another good environment with a good crowd… Just got to keep trying to push forward, take advantage of games and the play better at home once we get back.”

TOP SCORERS

The Trail Blazers were led by CJ McCollum, who finished with 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 shooting from three. McCollum also added three assists and two rebounds in 39 minutes.

Damian Lillard scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half while also handing out 11 assists for the double-double. Lillard was also within shouting distance of a triple-double with seven rebounds while also tallying one steal.

Jusuf Nurkić, still on a minutes restriction as he works his way back from a sprained right ankle, went for 14 points on 50 percent shooting, five rebounds and a block in 25 minutes.

Shabazz Napier scored all nine of his points in the second quarter, Ed Davis added six points and nine rebounds while rookie Zach Collins grabbed 10 rebounds in 15 minutes.

The Hornets were led by Nicolas Batum, who went 9-of-17 from the field for 23 points, though he was held scoreless in the fourth quarter. Kemba Walker finished with 14 points on 26 shots and Jeremy Lamb added 15 off the bench.

EASTERN PROMISES

It’s no secret that the Trail Blazers have a better win percentage on the road this season than a do at home, a fact that was punctuated after they lost four-straight at the Moda Center before heading out for another five-game road trip.

One of the reasons their road record has been better this season is their play against Eastern Conference teams. After winning just six games on the road against teams from the East last season, the 2017-18 Trail Blazers have already won seven such contests after Saturday night’s victory in Charlotte. Portland now has just six remaining road games against Eastern Conference teams with roughly four months remaining in the regular season.

THEY SAID IT

“That was the play of the game, that was a great play. They stripped us and for them to make that — Evan came in front of him and Chief came from behind. One-point game with a minute to go, that was definitely the play of the game.” — Terry Stotts on Al-Farouq Aminu’s block on Kemba Walker in the fourth quarter

LISTEN UP

NEXT UP

With the southeastern portion of their five-game road trip over, the Trail Blazers head west to face a Northwest Division foe, the Minnesota Timberwolves, Monday night at the Target Center in Minneapolis. It will be Portland’s first game against the Timberwolves this season. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. on NBC Sports NW and Rip City Radio 620 AM.