NEW ORLEANS — In a 15-second span, Ryan Anderson produced a pair of pivotal plays to prevent the New Orleans Hornets from squandering a third double-digit lead in a week.
Anderson highlighted a 20-point performance by hitting a 3-pointer with 15.6 seconds left, then a layup as he was fouled with 1.8 seconds to go. The Hornets snapped a three-game skid with a 98-96 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night.
“We’re learning and this was a big step for us," Anderson said. “We could have lost this game, too, in a similar way in the fourth quarter. We proved tonight that we can kind of be resilient and hold on."
Wesley Matthews scored 24 points, rookie Damian Lillard added 20 and LaMarcus Aldridge 16 for Portland, which fell three games behind the Los Angeles Lakers — 90-81 winners over Chicago on Sunday — for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“We let one slide," Matthews said.
Anderson’s late 3 gave the Hornets a 95-93 lead, but Lillard reached the 20-point mark for a sixth straight game by draining a 3 with 11.2 seconds left.
Greivis Vasquez, who also had 20 points, then dribbled out of traffic along the perimeter, angled hard into the lane and found Anderson sneaking in behind the defense — which had collapsed around rookie forward Anthony Davis — for the winning bucket.
“We kind of ran the play a little wrong, but coach always tells us, if you go hard you can kind of make up for those mistakes," Anderson said. “We did that in the end. Anthony’s cut really took my man in, Greivis drove hard and they were expecting him to shoot a floater. My man stepped up (to defend Vasquez) and Greivis made a great play."
Davis finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans, making a critical play in the final half-minute with an offensive rebound. He saved the ball from going over the baseline and whipped a pass to guard Brian Roberts on the perimeter, leading to Anderson’s late 3.
“We’ve had a lot of games we could have won and the fourth quarter has really hurt us," Davis said. “So this win really helped."
Portland was coming off an impressive 136-106 victory in San Antonio on Friday and was looking for a second-straight victory to keep pace with the Lakers. Instead, the Trail Blazers found themselves down by 10 midway through the fourth quarter after Darius Miller, Anderson and Vasquez all made 3s in successive possessions to put New Orleans up 87-77.
But the Hornets earlier this week had blown second-half leads of 17 points to Orlando and 21 points to the Lakers, and nearly collapsed again.
Matthews, who had six 3s in the game, made three during a late 14-3 run, including one that put Portland back in front 91-90 with 2:39 left.
Davis’ tip-in briefly restored New Orleans’ lead before Nicolas Batum’s jumper gave Portland the lead again, setting the stage for the wild finish.
Also on Sunday:
MIAMI — Mario Chalmers scored 26 points, Chris Bosh added 24 and Miami won its 18th straight game, easily topping Indiana.
TORONTO — Amir Johnson scored 17 points and matched his career high with 16 rebounds, and Alan Anderson scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter for Toronto.
LOS ANGELES — Dwight Howard scored 16 points and grabbed 21 rebounds, and Kobe Bryant chipped in with 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for Los Angeles.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Russell Westbrook scored 15 points and Oklahoma City stretched its winning streak to five games.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Jameer Nelson had 24 points and 10 assists, and Nik Vucevic added 14 points and 17 rebounds. The win ended the Magic’s seven-game home losing streak, their longest skid in Orlando since 2003-04.
MINNEAPOLIS — Vince Carter had 22 points and nine rebounds and Dirk Nowitzki scored 16 points for Dallas.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Monta Ellis had 29 points and nine assists and Milwaukee survived a late comeback by Sacramento to earn its second straight victory and sixth in seven games. Before the current hot streak, Milwaukee had dropped nine of 11 games.
LOS ANGELES — Blake Griffin led seven players in double figures with 22 points on nine of 12 shooting and the L.A. Clippers beat Detroit for its 10th win in 13 games.