Damian Lillard’s runner off the glass with 11.8 seconds left lifted the Blazers to 106-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors Saturday night at the Moda Center.
Lillard finished with 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting as well as seven assists and six rebounds in his first game since being named an NBA All-Star.
Lillard’s shot helped the Blazers avoid disaster as they gave up a 19-point lead. The Raptors took a one-point lead with 25 seconds left on a pair of free-throws from DeMar DeRozan.
Lillard’s shot would have been a moot point had it not been for some timely defense from Wesley Matthews.
Matthews was able to stifle the red-hot DeRozan — who finished with 36, 30 of which came in the second half — on back-to-back possessions to seal the win.
Matthews initially stopped DeRozan to force a jump ball with 8.2 seconds left. The Raptors won the ensuing jump ball. Matthews and the Blazers were able to force a loose ball that ended up in the hands of Nicolas Batum to seal the win.
“We knew the ball was going to go to DeMar,” Matthews said. “I was hoping it was going to be a one-on-one thing and it was. We were able to pressure him and he lost the ball.”
The Blazers had been in a shooting slump in for the last few games. After being able to rely on their offense to win games with a subpar defense, Portland was unable to salvage wins on the offensive end.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts usually waits until late in the third quarter or the fourth quarter to put Batum take the opposing point guards but put Batum on Toronto’s Kyle Lowry in the first.
“We’re going to do that more often to start the game,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts on throwing Batum on point guards.
Lowry finished with a solid line, but nothing was easy and the Raptors struggled early. The Blazers held Toronto to 35 percent shooting in the first half and had a 17-point halftime lead.
There were a total of 30 fouls called in the first half, making for a choppy affair. Within the starts and stops, DeRozan was able to find a rhythm, not only making tough shots but finding open Raptors and collecting a game-high 12 assists.
“He played the right way,” Matthews said. “There wasn’t a tendency that we could put him on.”
The Blazers went nearly eight minutes without a field goal in the third quarter until Lillard broke the dry spell with a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left in the third.
Behind DeRozan and the Toronto defense, the Raptors cut the Blazers lead down to nine points going into the fourth quarter.
The fouls took their toll on the Blazers with Robin Lopez and Matthews both having four in the third quarter, forcing Stotts to play CJ McCollum and Joel Freeland with Aldridge, Batum and Lillard.
Matthews hit three 3s that helped the Blazers push the lead back to 16 in the fourth. But DeRozan, Lowry and the Raptors kept on coming.
Defense was key to the Raptors comeback as they held the Blazers scoreless from the 5:01 mark of the fourth until the Lillard runner.
“It was a win we needed to get,” Stotts said.
After stopping their losing streak at two games, the Blazers now embark on a four-game road trip starting in Washington D.C. on Monday.