by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews prevents Toronto's DeMar DeRozan from shooting at the end of Saturday's game at Moda Center, as Portland wins 106-103.Wesley Matthews was 3 for 3 from 3-point range and scored nine points in the fourth quarter Saturday night at the Moda Center.

It was Matthews' defensive work in the clutch, though, that paved the way to Portland's 106-103 over Toronto and helped the Trail Blazers avert their most disastrous defeat in ages.

Matthews twice thwarted a smoking-hot DeMar DeRozan on the Raptors' final possession to preserve victory for the Blazers (34-13), who also avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season.

"That's what he can do for us," Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge said of Matthews. "He took it personal down the stretch. He was locked in. He came through for us big-time."

DeRozan scored 30 of his game-high 36 points in the second half, the last two a pair of free throws with 25.4 seconds remaining. That gave Toronto -- which trailed by 19 points in the second and third quarters and by 16 with fewer than eight minutes to play -- a 103-102 lead.

After Damian Lillard's running 10-foot bank shot with 11.8 seconds to go pushed Portland back ahead 104-103, Toronto called timeout, and coach Dwane Casey drew up a play for DeRozan.

The 6-7 DeRozan -- named this week to his first All-Star Game -- drove right, only to be tied up by Matthews with 8.1 seconds remaining.

"I'm mad they called it a jump ball," Matthews said. "I thought I ripped it away from him."

Toronto controlled the tip and called timeout with 5.6 seconds to go. Again, DeRozan took the ball on a drive right, only to lose it off the dribble under duress from Matthews. Nicolas Batum picked up the loose ball and was fouled with .1 of a second remaining. His two free throws provided the final score.

DeRozan "is a strong driver to the right side," Matthews said. "I didn't want to go at him first and have them potentially call a hand-check or a body-check. As soon as he came into my body, I was going to make sure we were attached the whole way. I was sliding and was able to strip the ball, and he lost it."

Matthews had fouled DeRozan on a long jump-shot attempt with 25.4 seconds remaining, going for a pump-fake that led to Toronto's only lead of the game. The gaffe gave Matthews resolve to make up for it while defending DeRozan on the Raptors' final possession.

"My mentality was, 'I owe us one,' " said Matthews, who scored 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including 5 for 7 from 3-point range. "I had to get us one back. That's unlike me to be undisciplined, to jump at that. But he had it going, so I felt like any time it left his hands, it was going to go in."

Said Lillard: "If he hadn't played that type of defense, we could easily have lost the game. Those guys were making tough shots. (On the final play), he did a great job of being just physical enough without fouling."

Does Matthews get more satisfaction out of playing great defense or sinking a key basket in the clutch?

"They're equal for me," he said. "I feel as much pride in my defense as making a big shot. We were able to get a stop there, and I'm thankful for it. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to sleep after that foul at the top of the key."

The Blazers had to be breathing a huge sigh of relief about not letting this one slip away, for several reasons.

They held a double-digit lead much of the way against a Toronto team playing the second of back-to-back games.

Then there was the need to rebound from their last two outings, defeats to Golden State (103-88) and Memphis (98-81) in which they shot below 35 percent.

Finally, there is the four-game road trip that begins Monday at Washington and includes a stop at Eastern Conference leader Indiana.

"Washington just knocked off OKC," Matthews observed. "That's always a tough place to play. Then we go to New York, and on to Indiana. It's not going to get any easier from here. We needed this one to set the tone for the trip."

"It's a win we needed to get," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "Toronto played very well to get back in the game and take the lead. … I don't want to have that last quarter to take away from what I thought was a pretty good game for us."

No getting around it, though, the Blazers nearly blew what appeared would be a runaway victory after seizing a 98-82 advantage with 7:49 remaining.

Portland jumped out to a 7-0 lead and was in front 57-40 at the half, dominating a Toronto club that looked listless.

"The first half wasn't us," said Casey, who coached with Stotts for five years as fellow assistants on staffs at Seattle and Dallas. "We picked it up in the second half, but you can't spot a good team like Portland that many points and expect to survive."

DeRozan was pedestrian in the first half, scoring six points on 2-for-8 shooting. He was Durant-esque the final two quarters, lighting up Matthews and anyone else who tried to guard him.

"He almost single-handedly got them back into it," Stotts said. "He made tough shots, made some jumpers where he got fouled. … He was voted an All-Star for a reason. He is capable of getting hot and carrying a team."

DeRozan also dished out a game-high 12 assists in 41 spectacular minutes.

"He played the right way," Matthews said. "He was making the right passes, making the right reads. He made a lot of plays. There are going to be nights like that. But we were able to get the stops we needed at the right time."

Aldridge led Portland in both scoring (27 points) and rebounds (15), but it wasn't his sharpest performance. The All-Star power forward was only 8 for 22 from the field and had four turnovers in 36 minutes.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Damian Lillard sinks a 3-pointer over Toronto's John Salmons late in the third quarter.Lillard, meanwhile, scored 12 of his 21 points in the second quarter and 15 before halftime. He was only 2 for 6 from the field in the second half, but he hit the game's biggest shot off a high pick-and-roll in the closing seconds.

"I came up off a down screen," said Lillard, who also had seven assists and six rebounds with no turnovers in 37 minutes. "My first thought was to try to turn the corner and attack as fast as I could. I was able to get a pretty good look and make the floater."

Said Stotts: "He made a good read, kept his dribble and was able to attack the big after he released."

After a 3-pointer by Lowry -- who scored 23 points to go with eight assists -- drew Toronto within 102-101 with 2:52 left, neither team scored until DeRozan's gift shots with 25.4 seconds on the clock.

"We knew it was going to come down to two or three possessions," Lillard said. "We had to tighten up our execution at the defensive end. We had to get a little more physical and help each other a little more."

DeRozan nearly shot the Raptors to a comeback victory.

"He hit a lot of shots that kept them in the game and allowed them to take the lead," Lillard said. "It was a great effort by him. But the most important thing for was to come out with a 'W.' "by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Blazers center Robin Lopez shoots over Raptors power forward Patrick Patterson (54) and center Jonas Valanciunas (17).


    • Portland remains tied with San Antonio for second place in the Western Conference, three games behind Oklahoma City (38-11).

    • Casey, before the game on former colleague Stotts: "Terry's done a great job with this team, getting them to the top. They're going to be playing late into the (post-)season."

    • By the end of the first quarter, Aldridge had 12 points and 11 rebounds, already notching his 30th double-double -- fourth-most in the NBA. Aldridge had never before had as many as 11 boards in the first quarter.

    • He had his 23rd game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds and his eighth 25/15 game of the season.

    • Batum contributed 18 points, five rebounds and four assists.

    • Portland got only 11 points on 3-for-10 shooting from its bench.

    • In his last nine games, Lillard -- who made 1 of 4 3-point attempts -- is shooting .229 (12 for 52) from beyond the arc.

    • Portland shot .461 from the field, including 8 for 18 (.444) from 3-point range.

    • Greivis Vasquez, Toronto's backup point guard, sat out the game with flu-like symptoms.

    • The Blazers have won six in a row over the Raptors in Portland.

    • Toronto entered the game having won three in a row and nine of 13.

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    Twitter: @kerryeggersby: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - LaMarcus Aldridge (left) and Wesley Matthews walk off the court after the Trail Blazers held on for a 106-103 victory over Toronto.

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