NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Hornets had seen teams come back to beat them in recent games.
However, short-handed and playing the second of back-to-back games, the Hornets fought past the Portland Trail Blazers 98-96 on Sunday at New Orleans Arena, ultimately gaining the victory on two late big plays by Ryan Anderson.
Anderson sank a 3-pointer with 15.6 seconds left that gave the Hornets a 95-93 lead. Then, after Blazers super rookie Damian Lillard countered with a trey with 11.2 seconds left off an out-of-bounds play, Anderson scored three more points.
Guard Greivis Vasquez drove and passed to Anderson, who made the layup, was fouled and made the free throw, putting the Hornets up by two. The Hornets had to survive a last-second 3-point attempt by Wesley Matthews, who had made four in the quarter. Only having time to catch and shoot, Matthews had to fire over Anthony Davis but missed.
“I’m just glad we were able to make plays, and we got some stops when we needed to,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “We held them to 44 points in the first half, we were efficient from the 3-point line (11-of-20) and we had 25 assists. It was a good win.”
Mainly, though, the Hornets hurt the Trail Blazers on the boards, outrebounding them 48 to 30 on the strength of 19 offensive rebounds, six by Davis. On the night before his 20th birthday, Davis had 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Anderson had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Vasquez, playing off guard because injuries, also scored 20. Matthews had 24 points and Lillard 20 for Portland.
The win, which gave New Orleans the season series 2-1, ended a three-game losing streak and came with a depleted backcourt. Eric Gordon sat out in keeping with the team’s policy of not playing him in back-to-back games, and Austin Rivers is sidelined for the rest of the season with a broken right hand.
However, Brian Roberts got the start at point guard and responded with nine assists.
Roberts hit a big 3 with 4:25 left that gave New Orleans a 90-85 lead, but Matthews sank his final 3 at 2:39, giving Portland a 91-90 lead.
The Hornets led 87-77 on a 3-pointer by Vasquez with 6:53 showing, but Lillard sank a 3 and Matthews two to bring Portland back.
It appeared early on that the Hornets would be overcome again after having a lead, although to a lesser degree than the huge leads the Lakers and Magic had overcome earlier in the week.
After the Blazers rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit to tie the score at 65 with 2:45 left in the third, Lance Thomas replaced Davis, who had his way offensively but wasn’t strong enough to stop LaMarcus Aldridge from backing into the lane. Thomas stopped that, allowing Aldridge just one jumper over him.
With the Hornets leading 69-67, Thomas sank an 8-footer, then came back and tipped in a Roberts’ miss on a drive and was fouled. Thomas made the free throw, completing the three-point play for a 74-67 lead, and the Hornets ended the quarter leading 76-69.
“Lance Thomas’ defense against the pick and roll was great, and he gave us an and-one (three-point play),” Williams said.
The Hornets took a 53-44 halftime lead, not an unusual achievement of late, by pounding the boards for 28 rebounds to 17 for Portland.
The Hornets’ bench, which brought energy when it entered the game late in the first quarter, continued in the second. Roger Mason and seldom-used Darius Miller sank 3s and Anderson made one that rolled around the rim before falling in, all in a span of 2:30 to give New Orleans a 38-30 lead with 8:11 remaining.
Then the Hornets ended the quarter strongly. New Orleans led 46-42 when Davis drove into the lane, was bumped by J.J. Hickson but coiled and made the shot for a six-point lead at 2:36. After Lillard made a 15-footer over Robin Lopez, Vasquez drove for a basket with 1:03 left after two Hornets offensive rebounds, and Mason hit a 3 with 13.3 remaining.