Trail Blazers 94, Hornets 86

Jamal Crawford decided it was his turn to speak up before

another road game got away from the Portland Trail Blazers.

”I told them we weren’t going to lose this game. Period,”

Crawford recalled when describing his animated comments during a

Portland timeout.

”It wasn’t going to happen.”

Crawford made sure of that himself, scoring a season-high 31

points, and Portland snapped a two-game skid while handing New

Orleans its eighth straight loss, 94-86 on Friday night.

Raymond Felton scored 18 points, including four straight free

throws in the final minute that gave the Blazers a 90-84 lead.

Newly selected All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace

each scored 14 points to help Portland pull out only its fourth

road win after trailing much of the game.

”Sometimes it’s not about how you win but the fact that you

win,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. ”New Orleans played hard

and scrapped and played a good game. We did the things we needed to

do down the stretch.”

Crawford, playing 30 minutes in a reserve role, scored 12 of his

points during a 15-5 Portland run that began late in the third

quarter and gave the Blazers a six-point lead early in the

fourth.

”I just felt we needed some energy. At that moment we were

struggling a little bit scoring-wise,” Crawford said, describing

how the Hornets kept double-teaming Aldridge and Wallace, who

generally provide much of Portland’s offense in the post.

”When they do that we’ve got to make them pay on the

perimeter,” Crawford said. ”That gives our guards better quality

shots and we’ve got to take advantage of that and we did

tonight.”

Trevor Ariza had 23 points and nine rebounds for New Orleans,

which briefly led 78-77 in the middle of the fourth quarter before

losing for the 23rd time in 25 games.

Portland trailed for most of the second and third quarters, but

surged into the lead with a 10-3 run to close the third. Crawford

scored seven points during that pivotal spurt on a driving floater

as he was fouled, a graceful driving scoop off the glass and a

20-foot jumper.

Crawford then opened the fourth quarter with two more jumpers

and a technical free throw, giving him 12 of 14 Portland points and

increasing the Blazers’ lead to 75-69.

”When he got going, everything got better because the focus on

taking me out kind of shifted,” Aldridge said of Crawford, who

also had eight assists. ”They were so focused on trying to stop

him, he got everybody open.”

Marco Belinelli’s 3 sparked a 7-0 run that briefly gave New

Orleans the lead once more, and after Portland went back up by

three on a pair of jumpers by Aldridge, Ariza’s three-point play on

a driving layup as he was fouled tied it at 81 with 4:11 left.

The Hornets had trouble generating offense in crunch time as

another close game slipped away.

New Orleans briefly got as close as 86-84 on Al-Farouq Aminu’s 3

with 48 seconds to go, but Aminu, who had 12 points off the bench,

fouled out seconds later, sending Felton to the free throw

line.

New Orleans scored only two more points, and Portland hit six

more free throws for the final margin.

Hornets coach Monty Williams said it was hard to criticize his

injury-plagued team, which had only nine players in uniform.

Starting point guard Jarrett Jack was out again after trying to

come back from left knee soreness last Wednesday, and 7-foot center

Chris Kaman was out after hurting his left ankle in pregame

warm-ups.

”When I look at this game, I see guys who fought, who competed,

who were put in a tough situation and battled all night,” Williams

said. ”Right now, I’m proud to be around a group of guys who fight

no matter what the situation. … We have to get better down the

stretch, but we had guys out there who had never been in that

position, and it was a good learning experience.”

Accurate jump shooting helped Portland finish at nearly 52

percent from the field to go with 20 of 25 free throw shooting.

That allowed the Blazers to overcome the Hornets’ 54-30 advantage

in points inside.

Crawford finished 10 of 16 from the field and 9 of 10 on free

throws. Five of Crawford’s six misses were from behind the 3-point

arc.

Emeka Okafor had 13 points and eight rebounds for New Orleans,

while Belinelli added 12 points.

Ariza had 15 of his points in the first half, and his free

throws put the Hornets up by as many as nine at 38-29 in the second

quarter. That was the largest lead for either team in a game that

had six lead changes and nine ties.

Notes: Portland improved to 4-9 on the road, with two of those

wins coming at New Orleans, which has an NBA-worst 2-14 home

record. … The Hornets were also without guard Eric Gordon and

forwards Carl Landry and Jason Smith. …. Hornets G Donald Sloan

made his debut for the club late in the first quarter, making him

the 11th new member of the team to play in a regular season game

through the first 27 games. He had seven points.