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Lillard leads Blazers past Pelicans

The SportsXchange

PORTLAND, Ore. -- It took guard Damian Lillard awhile to get going. But once he did, the 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year couldn't be stopped.

Lillard didn't score until he knocked down two free throws in the closing seconds of the first quarter. The second-year point man finished with 29 points, though, including 13 in the fourth quarter of Portland's 110-107 victory over New Orleans on Saturday night at the Moda Center.

"Damian understands what needs to be done," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "He takes it upon himself when he needs to. He is fearless going to the basket. Damian's play kind of speaks for itself. It's not like we should be surprised by anything."

Portland heads into Christmas with a 23-5 record, percentage points behind Oklahoma City (22-4) for the best record in the NBA.

"I've been a little surprised," said center Robin Lopez, in his first season with the Trail Blazers. "I'm not going to lie. But the second I got here and started playing with the guys, I had a very positive feeling. Chemistry has come together very quickly."

Forward LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 points and eight rebounds and guard Wesley Matthews had 18 points and six boards for the Trail Blazers, who trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half.

"Believe it or not, we still keep preaching defense," Stotts said. "We had a slow start, but one thing about our team -- we keep competing. As a coach, that's what you want your team to do. We keep finding ways to win. We make stops when we need them. We make shots when we need them."

Forward Anthony Davis collected 21 points and nine rebounds and guard Tyreke Evans contributed 21 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Pelicans (11-14), who dropped their fourth straight game. Forward Ryan Anderson and guard Eric Gordon each added 18 points.

"This is a great team we played tonight," Anderson said. The Blazers "are a tough team to win, but we put ourselves in position to win. I'm proud of the effort we gave. They hit some really tough shots to clinch the game."

Portland opened the third quarter on a 17-6 run to seize a 69-59 lead. New Orleans clawed back to within 83-78 after three quarters. The Blazers opened the margin to 96-86 with nine minutes left. The Pelicans rallied to take the lead at 103-101 on two Davis free throws with 2:59 remaining.

Lillard's jumper tied the score at 103-103, but Davis scored on a follow dunk to make it 105-103 with 2:15 to play. Lillard's 3-pointer pushed Portland ahead 106-105 with 1:28 to go. Matthews' driving layup made it 108-105 with 42 seconds left.

Evans scored on a drive to close the gap to 108-107 with 21 seconds on the clock.

Forward Nicolas Batum's two foul shots made it 110-107 with 12.4 seconds remaining. The Pelicans had two 3-point attempts in the closing seconds -- by Anderson and Evans -- but neither went down.

"We fought hard enough to win," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "When you have a team like that down, you have to keep them down."

Lillard scored 12 points in the second quarter as Portland climbed back from a 13-point deficit to trail by one at the half.

New Orleans started the game 8 of 10 from the field and grabbed an 18-7 lead just five minutes into the game. The Pelicans settled for a 26-21 lead after one quarter. Nine points came from Gordon in the quarter.

Portland got to within 32-30 before New Orleans went on a 7-0 run for a 39-30 edge. The Trail Blazers extended the lead to 49-36 before the Blazers turned it on with a 13-0 tear to tie the count at 49-49 with a minute to go before halftime. New Orleans went into the break ahead 53-52.

NOTES: Lillard, who is averaging 33.7 points in the last three games, made 11 of 21 shots from the field but made 10 of his final 15. "This is the best I've felt with my shot this season," he said. "Over the past few games, my game overall has been the best (all season). It might be because I'm starting to get a few more naps in." ... Portland entered the game ranked first in the league in scoring (108.3) and 3-point percentage (.411), second in free throw percentage (.817) and fourth in rebounding percentage (.516). ... Aldridge was 2 of 10 from the field until late in the first half. He finished 8 of 24 from the field. ... Davis was making his first start for New Orleans after missing seven games with a broken bone in his left hand. Davis had come off the bench in the Pelicans' 108-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, collecting 24 points and 12 rebounds in 32 minutes. Is he 100 percent? "A.D. is 20 years old," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "They're always 100 percent. When you're that age, it's just part of the deal. His 85 is like my 150 percent. He's fine. He is only going to get better as he gets the rust off." ... C Jason Smith (knee), who had started all 24 games for the Pelicans, did not play. Portland is 6-0 in games coming off losses. ... The Blazers own a streak of 15 consecutive games having scored 100 or more points, the franchise's longest since 1991.
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