Portland rallies to down Charlotte

Portland, OR (SportsNetwork.com) – After Portland star Damian Lillard made a
mental mistake with seconds remaining, Gary Neal thought he forced overtime
with a driving layup past Lillard as time expired.

But officials reviewed the play and ruled that the ball was still touching
Neal’s right hand as the buzzer sounded, giving the Trail Blazers a 102-100
win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Charlotte was the better team for most of the night against the banged-up
Blazers, who were without swingman Nicolas Batum (knee contusion). The Blazers
didn’t take their first lead of the game until Steve Blake’s 3-pointer at
3:04 of the fourth.

Later, Blake missed a corner three with Portland up two and 17.9 seconds
remaining. Had Charlotte secured the defensive board, it could have had a look
to tie the game, but LaMarcus Aldridge stole the board and went right back up
with it, finishing a difficult layup.

Charlotte went for a quick two and Neal delivered with a layup over Lillard.
Portland took a timeout to advance the ball and inbounded to Lillard, who went
to the rim instead of holding the ball and waiting to get fouled. Cody Zeller
defended Lillard’s layup perfectly, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist secured the
rebound, giving the Hornets a look with 3.5 to play.

They went right back to Neal, who easily beat Lillard off the dribble and rose
to the rim, releasing his layup a split second too late.

“You know playing a playoff team like Portland, you can’t expect to get bailed
out with a foul on that one,” said Neal. “That’s why I went to the basket as
hard as I did. I was just a tenth of a second too late.”

Lillard scored 29 points with seven assists and Aldridge had 25 with 14
rebounds for Portland, winners in four of five.

“We just had to keep playing,” Lillard said. “They came out and shot the ball
really well. We played physical.”

Al Jefferson paced Charlotte with 22 points and Lance Stephenson posted a
double-double with 14 points and 14 boards. It was the fourth straight time
the 6-foot-5 Stephenson finished with double-digit rebounds and fifth in eight
games this season.

The road team dominated early on as Portland adjusted to its first game
without Batum since the end of the 2012-13 season. Charlotte led 35-21 after
the first quarter and the spread reached 23 early in the second after Kidd-
Gilchrist sank two free throws.

Portland chipped away over the course of the game, and its deficit was down to
10, 85-75, heading into the fourth.

Game Notes

Wesley Matthews had 16 points and seven assists for Portland … Allen Crabbe
made his first career start in place of Batum, shooting 1-for-4 for two points
… Kemba Walker scored 16 for Charlotte.