Bobcats run out of gas against Blazers in OT
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — After playing six games in eight days on the East coast, you might think the travel weary Portland Trail Blazers might be ready to run out of steam.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points and 13 rebounds, Luke Babbitt hit a pair of clutch 3-pointers and Portland overcame an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 118-112 in overtime Monday night.
The Blazers trailed 97-79 with 5:17 left in regulation, but stormed back to tie the score and sent it into overtime on Babbitt’s 3 with 22 seconds left.
“We showed a lot of heart and determination,” Aldridge said.
To win their second straight game the Blazers had to find a way to stop Ben Gordon, who set a Bobcats’ franchise record with eight 3-pointers and finished with 29 points to eclipse 10,000 for his career.
Damian Lillard scored 24 points and Nicolas Batum added 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Blazers, who finish their seven-game road trip at Indiana on Wednesday.
“We are showing that anything is possible if we crack down and we play defense,” Aldridge said. “Down the stretch we were aggressive, hit the board and started trapping off the pick and roll. We had to make Ben Gordon and (Kemba) Walker pass the ball.”
Batum opened overtime with a big 3-pointer and the Blazers never trailed again.
Babbitt later added a clutch 3-ball to push the lead to four and Wesley Matthews finished off the Bobcats by hitting 4 of 4 free throws in the final 53 seconds.
Charlotte had a chance to win at the end of regulation but Kemba Walker’s drive and fallaway jumper from the baseline didn’t fall. The Bobcats wanted to get the ball to Gordon for the last shot, but he was well covered.
Walker penetrated, pump-faked and got a good shot off that didn’t go down.
Walker finished with 22 points and seven assists for the Bobcats. Byron Mullens added 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Gordon, who is shooting 49 percent from 3-point range this season, began to heat up late in the third quarter and gave the Bobcats a five-point lead to open the fourth.
Charlotte carried the momentum into the final period opening with a flurry, scoring the first 12 points with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist adding six during the stretch and Gordon hitting two more 3s to push the lead to 18.
That’s when Blazers coach Terry Slots told his players during a timeout that “a lot can happen.”
“I’ve been on the other end of this before,” Stotts said. “It doesn’t happen often. But it does happen. And you have to believe that it’s going to happen for you.”
The Blazers began chipping away as Lillard scored 16 points after halftime and Babbitt provided a huge lift off the bench.
“Luke was big,” Aldridge said. “He played solid on defense and he was big for us. They were doubling the block so coach wanted to put a shooter out there. You can’t leave Luke out there open. He opened up the floor for us.”
The Bobcats (7-9) have now lost four straight since tying last year’s season win total.
Gordon said the game was a learning experience for a Bobcats team that starts two rookies and is one of the league’s most inexperienced teams.
“NBA games are long,” Gordon said. “I’ve seen a lot of crazy things happen and it’s never really over until it’s over. So, when you have that type of advantage on a team, you just have to keep your foot on their neck and try and put them away.”
The Bobcats have won seven games this season but most of those have been close.
Coach Mike Dunlap said it looked like his team wasn’t sure what to do when it opened a big lead. The loss also left the Bobcats’ first-year coach second-guessing himself.
“It is unfamiliar territory,” Dunlap said. “I thought I could have done a better job helping them, for example with substitutions or maybe a couple of post-up plays for Byron. So I sort of point the finger at me on that.”
Mullens came up with one of the most impressive plays of the season in the first half with the 7-foot center driving down the lane and dunking one-handed over Aldridge.
“I kind of surprised myself with that one,” Mullens said. “I didn’t know he was there until Brendan (Haywood) moved out of the way. It was a great screen. He really sealed him. I thought it was going to be a charge.”
NOTES: Charlotte’s Gerald Henderson returned after missing 13 games with a foot injury, but did not start. Henderson played only 15 minutes and scored five points. … Batum had his first double-double of the season. He also had a season-high seven assists.