This time, Damian Lillard didn’t wait until the final seconds to put the Trail Blazers ahead.
Lillard drew a charging foul with Portland trailing by two points and then knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:27 remaining to lift the Trail Blazers to their sixth win in seven games, a 110-107 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.
Lillard scored 29 points and stepped up at the defensive end in crunch time, and Lamarcus Aldridge and Wesley Mathews added 18 points each for the Blazers.
Ryan Anderson and Tyreke Evans each missed 3-point attempts in the final 5 seconds as the Pelicans lost their fourth consecutive game on a five-game swing that concludes Monday at Sacramento.
Anthony Davis and Evans finished with 21 points each to pace five New Orleans players in double figures.
Lillard, last season’s Rookie of the Year, was coming off 36-point outbursts in road games Tuesday at Cleveland and Wednesday at Minnesota and hit two last-second game winning shots last week, said his game has never been as sharp as it has been over the past few games.
”Maybe it’s because I’m starting to get a few more naps in,” said Lillard, who was 11 of 29 from the field, including 4 of 10 from beyond the arc. ”I always tell our staff and my teammates that I never take naps. I just couldn’t do it. Lately, I’m been taking naps, so I guess that might be the difference.”
After Davis dunked off a miss by Evans to put New Orleans on top 105-103 with 2:19 to go, the Pelicans had a chance to add to their lead but Jrue Holiday plowed into Lillard and drew a charge, giving the ball back to Portland with 1:42 to play.
”(Holiday) was looking to take me away from his strong side,” said Lillard, playing with five fouls at the time. ”His whole momentum was going to the right and I just jumped on his right hand and I let him run me over. I didn’t have time to be worried about my fouls.”
Lillard’s final 3-pointer gave him 13 points in the fourth quarter and put the Blazers in front 106-105.
”Damian is Damian,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. ”He understands what needs to be done. He takes it upon himself when he needs to. It’s not like we should even be surprised by it anymore.”
Mathews hit a layup with 42.1 seconds left and Nicholas Batum added two free throws with 12.4 seconds remaining to seal a game in which the Pelicans led by as many as 13 points in the first half and the Blazers by as many as 10 points on three separate occasions in the second half.
The Blazers, rebounding from Wednesday’s 120-109 loss at Minnesota, also got 14 points and eight rebounds from Robin Lopez, while Batum finished with 11 points and six assists. Portland had a season-low seven turnovers.
Eric Gordon and Anderson scored 18 points apiece, and Holiday chipped in 13 for the Pelicans, who shot 46.8 percent (44 of 94) to Portland’s 43.9 percent (43 of 98) and also had a 48-45 edge in rebounds.
”Of course, that’s not the kind of ending we wanted,” said Davis, playing in his second game after missing seven with a broken bone in his left hand. ”Portland made tough shots. We played good defense except for that 31-point (third) quarter, but we gave ourselves a chance to win again one of the best teams in the league.”
Pelicans coach Monty Williams said his team certainly played hard enough to win.
”There’s a lot of things I’d like to say that wouldn’t be appropriate,” said Williams, a one-time Blazers assistant. ”I thought our guys battled and some things didn’t go our way tonight. I have nothing bad to say about the game because of the way we competed.
”(Aldridge) didn’t really go off like he’s been going off. We kept him under wraps. But Lillard had 29 and those shots he hit at the end were daggers.”
NOTES: Stotts said there is no timeline on a return for rookie guard CJ McCollum, who participated in a full practice Friday for the first time since fracturing his left foot during practice on Oct. 5. … The last time the Blazers had fewer than 10 losses through 28 games was in 1999-2000, when they started 21-7 en route to a monumental fourth-quarter meltdown in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers. … Lillard went into Saturday’s game averaging 21.3 points and ranked third in the league among point guards behind Golden State’s Stephen Curry (24.5) and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving (21.8). … Saturday’s game was the first of four regular-season meetings between the Blazers and Pelicans, who next meet on Dec. 30 in New Orleans. … The Blazers went into Saturday’s game averaging a league-best 108.3 points a game after averaging 119.5 points during their recent four-game swing.