NEW ORLEANS — It took a week, but the Hornets held onto a double-digit second-half lead, squeaking past Portland 98-96 on Ryan Anderson’s layup and free throw with 1.8 seconds to play.
In the Hornets’ previous two home games, Orlando and the Lakers both used second-half runs to overcome New Orleans’ 17- and 18-point leads in the final 24 minutes.
It appeared something similar was happening Sunday night. New Orleans (22-42) led by 10 points with 6:53 to go in the game. But behind Wesley Matthews’ 14 fourth-quarter points, the Blazers reeled in the Hornets.
“We gave up a 3 when you couldn’t give up a 3,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “They up 3’s, we gave up 3’s. We just ended up scoring more points.”
With 2:39 to go, Matthews’ 3-pointer gave Portland its first lead since the first minute of the second quarter.
Anthony Davis’ tip-in put the Hornets back up 92-91 but it was short-lived. Greivis Vasquez was called for traveling and Nicolas Batum answered with a 22-foot jumper to give Portland a 93-92 lead with 1:15 to go.
Again the Hornets came through and again Davis was an integral part. After Vasquez missed a 6-foot jumper, Davis chased the loose ball, saving it to Brian Roberts, who found Anderson open. The veteran forward sank a 3-pointer and New Orleans was up 95-93 with just 15 seconds to play.
But once again Portland answered, this time thanks to super rookie Damian Lillard, who finished with 20 points and eight assists. Nearly four months ago, Lillard sank a game-winning 3-pointer with no time on the clock. Sunday, he almost did it again, drilling a 26-footer with 11 seconds to go to put the Blazers up 96-95.
With time left on the clock, however, the Hornets had time for a play. Vasquez drove the lane, pulling in the defense and opening up Anderson. He dished the ball to his teammate, who put the ball in the basket and was fouled by Jared Jeffries.
Anderson sank his free throw, sealing the win with 1.8 seconds to play.
He finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds and was 4 of 9 from 3-point range.
“When 3-point shooters get hot, they create problems,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Ryan Anderson got hot and he spaces the floor for them really well.”
New Orleans won with big play on the glass. The Hornets outrebounded the Blazers 48-30, including 19-6 on the offensive boards. New Orleans had 23 second-chance points.
That made up for the 14 turnovers that Portland (29-33) turned into 19 points.
Vasquez finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists while Roberts, in his first-career start, had nine points and nine assists.