McCollum's Floater Puts Trail Blazers Over The Top Versus Spurs

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The last time the Spurs and Trail Blazers met at the Moda Center, San Antonio rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second half to eke out the victory.

In the second meeting, the Trail Blazers returned the favor.

With 5.9 seconds to play in the fourth quarter, CJ McCollum hit what would be a game-winning floater in traffic to give the Trail Blazers a 111-110 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 Sunday night at the Moda Center.

"I just wanted to get downhill, try to get a quick shot off, whether it be myself or hitting somebody else," said McCollum of Portland's last offensive possession of the game. "But once I got downhill and I snaked it, everybody kind of stayed home. (Aminu) was in the right corner when I look, think (Napier) was in the left or Moe Harkless. Everybody kind of stayed home so then I knew I had about a six-foot floater."

With the win the Trail Blazers improve to 21-18 overall and 10-10 at home this season. Portland has now beaten San Antonio in three of the last four meetings and have now won three-straight at home after losing six in a row at the Moda Center.

“I was really, really pleased with primarily the second half," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "I thought the first half was solid, but our focus and energy in the third quarter was really good. We got hands on a lot of balls. We got out in transition. It was surprising at the start of the fourth quarter, they went small and we stayed with the lineup they had and kind of broke it open which was good to see. It’s nice to have one of these at home."

After a close first half that featured seven ties but just two lead changes, the Spurs took a 69-57 lead on a LaMarcus Aldridge putback with 6:14 to play in the third quarter. At that point, there was probably more than a few people in attendance who though the Trail Blazers were long for another home loss, especially with the previous loss to the Spurs still somewhat fresh.

But behind the play of Maurice Harkless and Shabazz Napier, Portland went on a 16-5 run to cut San Antonio's lead to 74-73 with 1:41 to play. Napier would go on to score the last seven points of the quarter for the Trail Blazers, tying the game at 80-80 going into the fourth and final quarter.

"I felt like collectively we did a great job," said Napier. "Everybody who got in the game did something impactful and I thought that actually helped a lot out for myself and CJ to get in the paint and do certain things, to be who we are: aggressive guards. It made it much easier on the offensive end."

After a nip and tuck start to the fourth, Portland took their largest lead of the night at seven after Harkless hit his third three of the night to put the home team up 101-94 with 5:37 to play. But ageless wonder Manu Ginobili would come up big in the fourth, just as he did in the previous meeting back in December, hitting three threes over the next three minutes. Add in a Davis Bertans three and San Antonio managed to reclaim a 108-105 lead with 2:13 to play in regulation.

But Napier and McCollum both finished layins late in the fourth to take a 109-108 lead with just over a minute to play. But after nearly a minute of scoreless basketball, Kyle Anderson retook the lead at 110-109 after being fouled by Al-Farouq Aminu with 13.4 seconds to play.

On the next possession, McCollum received the inbounds pass in the backcourt, got a screen from Jusuf Nurkić, turned the corner darted into the paint. Rather than driving any further into the teeth of San Antonio's defense or kicking to a teammate on the perimeter, McCollum pulled the trigger on a floater from six feet, which found the bottom of the net after taking numerous bounces on the rim.

"It didn't want to go in," joked McCollum. "That's karma from all the in and outs I missed all year. I was due for one. I got a good look so I could live with that. Even if it rolls out, I can live with that. That's a shot I practice over and over again. I get thousands of reps, especially in the summer time. Going left, going right, I can get a good look at a floater pretty much any day of the week."

TOP SCORERS

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 25 points on 11-of-24 shooting from the field to go with seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and a block in 38 minutes.

Maurice Harkless, after getting a DNP in Friday's game versus the Hawks, went 7-of-10 from the field and 3-of-4 from three for 19 points while also grabbing five rebounds and blocking two shots in 24 minutes.

Jusuf Nurkić put up a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds in just under 31 minutes while also adding a block and an assist. Shabazz Napier, who started in place of Damian Lillard (right calf strain), went for 15 points on 7-of-9 shoting, seven assists, two steals and a block in 33 minutes.

LaMarcus Aldridge led all scorers with 30 points, though he missed what would have been a game-winning mid-range jumper on San Antonio's final offensive possession of the game, while also grabbing 14 points for the double-double. Manu Ginobili went 9-of-16 from the field and 6-of-9 from three for 26 points to go with four rebounds and two assists.

LISTEN UP

LILLARD OUT AGAIN

It seemed as though Trail Blazers starting point guard Damian Lillard put the right hamstring strain that caused him to miss five games behind him when he returned to the lineup for Portland’s 127-110 loss to the Cavaliers in Cleveland on January 2. And when he played again in Portland’s 110-89 win versus the Atlanta Hawks at the Moda Center on January 5, that notion seemed all but certain.

But while the hamstring wasn’t enough to keep him from playing in the Trail Blazers’ last two games, he was listed on the injury report as probable with a right calf strain. But considering Lillard’s history of playing through all but the most serious injuries, no one seemed to give it much thought. Or at least not until it was announced less than two hours prior to Sunday’s game versus the Spurs that Lillard would sit out due to injury.

“We've got a big stretch of games coming up and having a little bit of a situation with my hamstring, it takes time,” said Lillard. “And then, aggravating my calf, and having both be on the same side, (the team training staff) just told me that it would probably be smarter to take it easy. Obviously, I felt pretty similar going into last game, a little bit of soreness. But overall, I felt good. And I played. I thought I impacted the game. I thought I controlled the game. I felt like I could do the same tonight, but I'm going to always take what they have to say and try to be smart about the situation.”

The question now is what Lillard’s availability will be for that “big stretch of games,” which starts on Tuesday with a back-to-back road series versus the Thunder and Rockets. If Lillard wasn’t healthy enough to play Sunday night, will his condition be improved enough that he’s able to play on Tuesday in Oklahoma City? And if he does, will he play the next game, the second of a back-to-back, in Houston? As of Sunday night, nobody, not even Lillard, have an answer to those questions.

SPURS SHORTHANDED AS USUAL

The Blazers weren’t the only team playing shorthanded Sunday night, as the Spurs were without Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Rudy Gay and Gerald Green due to various infirmities. But that’s nothing new for the Spurs, a team that often prioritizes rest over the prospect of playing without multiple key contributors.

In fact, the Spurs playing the Trail Blazers in Portland with their full compliment of players would be the exception rather than the rule. But that hasn’t stopped Gregg Popovich’s team from winning more than their fair share of games, both against the Trail Blazers and league-wide, despite a roster of available players that changes dramatically from night to night.

“I think it's a great tribute to Coach Pop is that their style of play doesn't change over the years,” said Terry Stotts. “They're a firm believer in their system, defensively they don't change. I think Pop does a great job of developing and molding the culture and the new guys coming in understand that.”

QUOTABLE

“Just play. Just go out there and play as much as I can, like I said, in practice, after practice, before practice, just try to get as many guys as I can that want to play and just play. Just staying mentally tough and knowing that it’s going to come back around.” -- Maurice Harkless on how he deals with being in and out of the lineup

NOTABLE

• Portland has won five of its last seven games, including three straight at Moda Center.

• The Trail Blazers have won three of their last four games against the Spurs, with all four games being decided by four points or fewer.

• The Trail Blazers outscored the Spurs in the paint, 64-42.

• Portland went on a 23-11 run over the final 6:14 of the third quarter to tie the game at 80-80 go-ing into the fourth quarter.

• The Trail Blazers committed nine turnovers while forcing the Spurs into 14 turnovers.  

• Portland shot 52.2% (48-of-92) from the field, while San Antonio shot 49.4% (40-of-81) from the field.

• Portland had seven steals and five blocks while the Spurs had four steals and five blocks.

NEXT UP

The Trail Blazers now head out for a four-game, Western-Conference road trip that starts Tuesday in Oklahoma City versus the Thunder, a team that currently sits just above Portland in the standings. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.