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Lillard's layup boosts Blazers past Suns

The SportsXchange

PORTLAND, Ore. -- How open was Damian Lillard?

"Damian was aggressive, (forward LaMarcus Aldridge) set a good screen and it was like the Red Sea parted," Portland coach Terry Stotts said after the point guard's layup with 6.5 seconds left gave the Trail Blazers a 90-89 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

After a timeout, the Blazers (6-2) had to agonize as the Suns had three final shots to win it -- guard Eric Bledsoe's driving layup and two subsequent tips -- before pocketing their fourth win in a row.

"It seemed like that was the longest time in my life," said Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who wound up on the floor with the ball as time expired.

Lillard's basket off a high pick-and-roll play with Aldridge capped a comeback by the Blazers, who trailed 77-69 with eight minutes left on a night when both offenses struggled. Portland shot 41.7 percent from the field, Phoenix just a little better at 43 percent. The Blazers' top two scorers -- Aldridge and Lillard -- combined for only 23 points on 9-for-32 shooting.

"Every win's not going to be pretty," said Aldridge, who was 5-for-19 from the field and finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. "Good teams learn how to win ugly games.

"Tonight was an ugly game. (The Suns) missed shots, we missed shots, and in the end, our defense prevailed."

Coach Jeff Hornacek lamented the way the Suns defended the final Portland basket.

"We picked them up too high, and (Lillard) got that running start," Hornacek said. "Our big didn't slow him down at all. Then after he got by, all the guys didn't want to give up a 3."

Regarding Phoenix's final possession, Hornacek said, "Eric probably got fouled on the layup, and then we had two tip-ins that were point blank. A tough one to take."

Forward Thomas Robinson came off the bench to lead Portland with 15 points to go with eight rebounds in 17 minutes. Center Robin Lopez collected 13 points and 15 rebounds for the Blazers, who equaled their season-high with 17 turnovers.

Bledsoe led Phoenix (5-3) with 23 points.

Phoenix extended a two-point halftime lead to 68-59 before guard Mo Williams banked in a desperation 3-pointer from the top at the buzzer, drawing Portland to within 68-62 entering the fourth quarter.

The Suns led 77-69 before Portland used a 9-0 run to jump in front 78-77 with 6:40 to play. Forward P.J. Tucker snapped the Phoenix drought with a jump shot to push the Suns back ahead 79-78, and the teams exchanged leads four times over the next three minutes.

Guard Wesley Matthews' 3-pointer with 2:04 to go cut Phoenix's advantage to 87-86. Lopez's tip-in gave Portland the lead back at 88-87 with 1:38 remaining.

Phoenix center Miles Plumlee scored on a layup with 51 seconds to go to push the Suns back in front 89-88.

After a timeout with 11.3 seconds left, Lillard's layup set up the final dramatics at the other end.

Bledsoe's 11 points led Phoenix through a sluggish first half that saw the Suns lead 43-41 at intermission. Aldridge and Lillard combined for seven points in the half. The Blazers had nobody score more than six points through the break.

NOTES: Portland C Robin Lopez notched his third consecutive double-double. ... Blazers F Thomas Robinson matched his career high with 15 points. ... The Suns played hack-a-TRob, fouling Robinson intentionally down the stretch. He made one of two free throws with 3:15 left. ... Blazers F LaMarcus Aldridge was 1-for-7 and G Damian Lillard 2-for-7 in the first half. ... Phoenix G Goran Dragic suffered a cut that took 13 stitches to close early in the fourth quarter when he bumped heads with Portland G Mo Williams. Dragic didn't return. ... Dragic was in the starting lineup after missing the Suns' Tuesday practice session to be with his wife for the birth of the couple's son, Mateo. Dragic had 26 points, nine assists and six rebounds in a 104-91 season-opening victory over Portland. He had 14 points in 24 minutes Wednesday. ... When the Suns traded veteran C Marcin Gortat before the regular season began, it was assumed the organization was "tanking" the season to position itself for a lottery pick in the draft. "That's what they say," Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. "I told the guys earlier in the season, 'You'll hear that, but you won't hear that from coaches and you know you're not going to hear it from players.' We're all too competitive for that. We're happy with how it's started, but we feel we can still play better."
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