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.
“We were in a position to win a couple of times and we just didn’t come up with a rebound or get a stop that we needed,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “It’s disappointing to be in that situation and not come away with a win.”