Trail Blazers hold off Hornets
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Terry Stotts refuses to call any win ugly.
But certainly he must have been tempted after the Portland Trail Blazers held on for a 93-91 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night at the Spectrum Center.
The Blazers let a 16-point fourth-quarter lead slip away completely, then they had to endure as the Hornets missed five chances to tie or win in the closing seconds.
Ultimately, Portland won when Charlotte’s Kemba Walker missed a 3-point attempt from about 30 feet after Portland’s Al-Farouq Aminu missed two free throws with 3.8 seconds remaining.
Stotts chose to look at the bright side. The Blazers (16-13) won their third straight on a five-game road trip. They have now beaten Miami, Orlando and Charlotte in the last four days.
“Three road wins in a row is pretty good,” Stotts said. “The last few minutes were kind of exciting, but I was proud that we were able to hang on. Nothing’s easy. That’s part of the NBA. It would be nice to have a 20-point win, but those are hard to come by.”
The Blazers didn’t have a field goal in the last four minutes and were just 2 of 6 from the line in the same span. But again, Stotts doesn’t believe in using the word ugly.
”When we hit the three threes at the start of the fourth quarter, I wouldn’t have said it was ugly then,“ Stotts said. ”The fourth quarter got a little hectic. We fouled too much.
“Our offense bogged down a little. But I don’t think it was an ugly game until 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter and then it got a little ragged.”
C.J. McCollum led the Blazers with 25 points. Damian Lillard finished with 18 points and 11 assists, and Jusuf Nurkic scored 14.
Portland led 49-37 at halftime and never trailed in the second half. The biggest lead came at 83-67 in the first two minutes of the fourth.
But Charlotte fought back to tie the score at 87 on three free throws by Jeremy Lamb with 4:38 left.
Nurkic’s layup gave the Blazers the lead for good at 89-87 with 4:22 left and Lillard hit a floater for a four-point lead with 4:01 remaining, but Portland had to enter survival mode at that point.
In the final minute on various possessions, Walker missed an 18-footer and had a drive blocked by Aminu, Frank Kaminsky missed a tip, Lamb airballed a 3-point attempt, and then Walker missed again from about 30 at the final buzzer.
Stotts said Aminu’s block of Walker was the play of the game. Aminu actually gave credit to teammate Evan Turner, who was guarding Walker, for the play.
“ET, being the vet, he knows that when you see somebody that can block shots trailing behind you want to undercut him so that basically they have to lob the ball up a little more,” Aminu said. “He did that and I was able to make the block. I give a lot of kudos to what ET did.”
The Hornets (10-19) have now lost three straight and 10 of their last 12. They shot just 34.4 percent from the field and were 18 of 28 from the free-throw line.
”Our guys fought, once again,“ said associate head coach Stephen Silas, who continues to coach the Hornets in Steve Clifford’s absence. ”I‘m proud of them for fighting. We got in another deep hole, down 16, and we fought all the way back and had multiple opportunities down the stretch.
“We’ve got to just keep fighting and know that if we play like we played at the end of this game, we’re going to win some games and we’re going to turn this around.”
Nicolas Batum led the Hornets with 23 points against his former team. Lamb scored 15.
Walker scored 14 but was just 7 of 26 from the field. Marvin Williams scored 10, and Dwight Howard had nine points and 15 rebounds.
”We fought for 48 minutes and once again we put ourselves in a bad situation where we were down like 15 or 16 again, and we can’t do that.
“Down 16, that’s the NBA sometimes, you’re going to come back. That happens like 20 percent of the time, though, not 80 percent. We can’t put ourselves in bad situations every time.”
NOTES: This was the first of two meetings between the teams this season. They’ll play in Portland on Feb. 8. ... Both teams were playing on the second night of a back-to-back. The Blazers won 95-88 at Orlando on Friday and the Hornets lost 104-98 at home to Miami. ... The Blazers were fully healthy and the Hornets were without F Cody Zeller (left knee surgery). ... The Hornets are now 2-6 since coach Steve Clifford left the team to deal with an unspecified health issue. There is still no time frame on Clifford’s return. ... This was the fourth game of a five-game road trip for the Blazers that will conclude Monday at Minnesota. ... The Hornets are 0-12 when scoring fewer than 100 points. ... The Hornets were playing the second game of a four-game homestand. They will host New York on Monday night.