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Blazers sting Hornets with Lillard's clutch 3-pointer

The SportsXchange

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Damian Lillard might be a rookie, but the Portland Trail Blazers don't mind having the ball in his hands with the game on the line.

Lillard's 3-point basket with three-tenths of a second remaining gave Portland a 95-94 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday night at the Rose Garden.

The win came after the Hornets rallied from a 16-point, third-quarter deficit to tie the game at 92-92 on Austin Rivers' 3-pointer with 42 seconds left.

Each team failed to score on a subsequent possession, and Portland (11-12) wound up with the ball with 4.2 seconds left. After a timeout, Lillard inbounded to Luke Babbitt, who handed the ball to Lillard, and the rookie point guard launched a 28-foot shot that swished through the net.

"When I let it go, I got it over the top of (Rivers') hands," said Lillard, who scored 16 points. "I was like, 'That looks good. That's going in.'"

After a timeout, the Hornets inbounded, and Lance Thomas converted a meaningless layup at the buzzer.

J.J. Hickson collected 24 points and 16 rebounds for Portland, which won its third consecutive game. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 20 points before leaving in the final seconds with a sprained left ankle. Nicolas Batum added 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers.

Ryan Anderson scored 26 points, and Greivis Vasquez contributed 23 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds for New Orleans, which lost its seventh in a row.

The Blazers' lead was 69-53 midway through the third period, but Anderson and Vasquez led a late rally that brought the Hornets even.

Aldridge sank a 12-foot baseline jumper to push the Blazers in front 92-89 with 1:04 to go.

After Rivers' tying 3-pointer, Lillard missed a 3-point try with 28 seconds left, and the Hornets (5-18) rebounded. Vasquez missed a driving layup, and the Blazers rebounded and called time with 11.3 seconds left. The Hornets had a foul to give, and Vasquez intentionally fouled Lillard with 4.2 seconds to play. That set up the game-winning play.

"We bent, but we didn't break," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "I was pleased with that. We got the lead to 16 and had some loose possessions. We could have pushed our lead a little bit more. That bit us as the game went forward."

The Hornets came back in part because they took care of the ball better. They had 11 of their 14 turnovers in the game's first 19 minutes.

"We put ourselves in a hole in the first half with turnovers, giving them easy buckets, and we had a couple of guys who just didn't give us much tonight," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "But we had a group of guys in the second half who competed, and we played hard. A lot of nights we're outmatched talent-wise, but when you fight like that, you give yourself a chance to win."

NOTES: Guard Wesley Matthews returned to the Trail Blazers' starting lineup after missing the previous two games with a hip injury. However, he played just four minutes, scoring three points. ... Hornets rookie Anthony Davis played in his fourth straight game after missing 13 games with an ankle injury. The No. 1 overall draft pick came off the bench to contribute 15 points and five rebounds. "The last couple of games, he's starting to get more comfortable," Williams said before the game. "He's a hard worker, one of the most coachable guys I've ever been around, and highly skilled. That's a great combination." ... New Orleans center/forward Jason Smith missed his second straight game with a shoulder injury, and Williams said he could be out as long as two weeks. ... The Hornets added 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward Dominic McGuire -- waived by Toronto on Nov. 30 -- and he scored three points and grabbed four rebounds in 11 minutes. "We felt like we needed to add some toughness and defense," Williams said. "He's not a guy who will wow you with scoring, but he can defend, handle the ball and pass, and he has a toughness about him we think will help our team." ... With the Hornets slumping, Williams said he sent a stern message to his players during Sunday's shootaround: "You're in the NBA. Your job is something you're not entitled to. Somebody is always trying to get your minutes. Young guys need to understand that. Nothing's promised to anybody. You have to bring it every day."

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