It's 'Lillard Time' again
Damian Lillard figured history was on his side.
"My entire career, every time I miss (a potential game-winner), the next time I'm in that position, it always goes in my favor," Lillard said after sinking a 3-point shot with .7 of a second left to lift the Trail Blazers past the Los Angeles Lakers 113-110 Thursday night at Moda Center. "Usually after that first miss, the next one is going in."
On Wednesday night, Lillard's attempt at a game-winning basket — a runner at the end of regulation — was blocked by Utah center Rudy Gobert, and the Jazz went on to win 112-103 in overtime.
Thursday at Moda, the Blazers called timeout after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's 3-pointer tied the score at 110-110 with 15.5 seconds left.
The inbound pass went to the 6-3 Lillard, guarded by 6-9 Brandon Ingram.
"I looked up at about seven seconds (left) and I started giving (Ingram) movement," said Lillard, who scored 19 of his game-high 32 points in the second half. "I backed him up, got a clean look at the rim, rose up and made the jumper."
After a timeout, Kyle Kuzma's 3-point try went off the front rim at the buzzer, and the Blazers (5-4) breathed a sigh of relief.
"'Dame' made a good read (Wednesday) night," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "Gobert made a great play. Tonight, (Lillard) had his mind made up to take the (3-point) shot. That's what great players do."
It was the first time this season that Portland's Big Three — Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic — had productive offensive games on the same night. Nurkic scored 20 of his season-high 28 points in the first half while McCollum added 22, 13 in the first quarter.
Nurkic's repertoire included dunks, midrange jumpers and finishes with both hands.
"Our guards did a nice job of finding him on the rolls," Stotts said. "The passes they made to him in the lane made his job easier. It was good for him to have a night like that."
Said Lillard: "If 'Nurk' doesn't play the kind of game he played, we're not in position to take the game. Down the stretch, we went to him twice and he got two buckets. … He had his imprints all over the game tonight."
Nurkic finished 12 for 20 from the field and also contributed five rebounds, five assists and three steals in his 29 minutes.
"My teammates went to me a lot tonight," Nurkic said, "but I'm the same player I'm always going to be. I'm going to do what I can to help my team win."
In addition to the overtime loss at Utah, Portland had suffered defeats by one point (to the Los Angeles Clippers) and three points (to Milwaukee) this season.
"It's good to get a close-game win," Stotts said. "We needed that. Dame's shot was huge. He carried us in the second half."
The Blazers had their best first quarter of the season, shooting .714, going ahead by 18 points and rolling to a 41-25 lead heading into the second period.
Then came the second quarter — a bugaboo recently for the Portland quintet — and the Lakers closed to within 66-62 at the half.
The Lakers, started the third quarter with a 12-2 run to go ahead 74-68, and it was a battle from there.
"It would have been a really tough one to lose, but we've had a stretch of games where we haven't played the way we want to play consistently," Lillard said. "Usually to dig out of that, you have to have a game like this, where you get tested and you have to go and take it.
"When we needed stops, we got stops. When we needed to make shots and plays, we did that. The most important thing was we got the 'W' while having to deal with some adversity."
Lillard said winning a close one did the Blazers good.
"We had a dogfight with them," he said. "We had to trust ourselves and trust each other to get it done. Having to pull out a game like this does more for you character-wise."
NOTES — The Blazers' next action is at 6 p.m. Sunday against Oklahoma City at Moda Center, second of a six-game homestand. … Portland extended its win streak over the Lakers to 13 games dating to March 2014. The Blazers have won seven straight at home in the series. … Portland's 41-point first quarter was its highest-scoring quarter since the Blazers got 44 in a period against Indiana in December 2016. … Lillard and McCollum were both 8 for 18 from the field. McCollum was 5 of 8 from 3-point range, Lillard 2 for 6. … Portland won the game at the 3-point line, making 9 of 22 attempts to the Lakers' 4 for 18. … Brook Lopez scored 27 points and Kuzma, a 6-9 rookie forward from Utah, came off the bench for 22 for the Lakers (3-5). Touted rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, the second pick in the draft, was a nonentity, going scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting with four assists and three rebounds in 28 minutes. … The Lakers shot .544 from the field, high for a Portland opponent this season. The Blazers entered the game holding foes to .423 shooting, which ranked fourth in the NBA. "We didn't have a good defensive night," Stotts said. … Larry Nance Jr., the Lakers' starting power forward, suffered a fractured right hand in the third quarter. … Lakers coach Luke Walton called Lillard "an absolutely amazing player and competitor. Brandon did a good job playing defense on that last possession, but great players hit great shots."
Portland's starting power forward, Al-Farouq Aminu, sat out the game with an ankle sprained in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night's loss at Utah. Stotts said there is no timeline for Aminu's return, but he is expected to miss at least several games. Noah Vonleh started in Aminu's absence, and he was scoreless with two rebounds and two blocked shots in 15 minutes. Rookies Caleb Swanigan (five points, four rebounds, two steals in 14 minutes) and Zach Collins (no points, one rebound in 11 minutes) also played the 4 spot. "We have a lot of depth at that spot," Stotts said. "We have Noah, Caleb and Zach, and we can slide Mo (Harkless) over there. It's our deepest position. We'll see how we can manage these next few games." … Stotts said pregame that Ball "reminds me a little bit of a young Jason Kidd. I really like his game." … Ball is shooting .326 from the field and .278 from 3-point range. "He's a good shooter," Walton said. "He shot for a good percentage in high school and college, and he'll shoot a good percentage in the NBA. It's early in his first year. The (3-point) line is a little further back. The game is a little longer. Games come more frequently. There are a whole lot of things you have to get used to. As he matures and gets more comfortable in this league, his numbers will go way up."