PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers’ home game with the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday came down to what the Blazers affectionately like to call “Lillard Time.”
Usually, when the Blazers are tied or close in the final seconds, the last possession or shot is star guard Damian Lillard’s opportunity to get the ball and make something happen.
The 76ers, however, weren’t going to let that happen to them.
So, Lillard Time became “CJ McCollum Time.”
McCollum, Lillard’s backcourt mate, wound up with the ball as the clock ticked down and with the teams tied at 105-105 at Moda Center.
The 76ers rushed over to trap him, just as they had double-teamed Lillard moments earlier. McCollum kept his poise and patience, gathered himself, put his head down, split the defenders, got to the rim, made a layup, drew a foul, and sank the free throw for the decisive three-point play with 7.6 seconds remaining, and Portland won 108-105.
“I was counting the seconds in my head,” McCollum said. “I knew eventually I’d be able to kind of split the defense.”
Up 108-105, Portland intentionally fouled forward Jerami Grant on his inbound-play catch before he could flip the ball to a 3-point shooter. Grant missed both free throws with 7.2 seconds to go, including the second one when he banged the ball off the backboard without it hitting the rim.
Time ran out with the 76ers attempting to steal the ball in the backcourt.
“I’m glad we won the game. … It was a great move (by McCollum). It was a good and-one. He made a good read,” said Portland coach Terry Stotts said, who didn’t have a lot else positive to say about the night.
McCollum finished with a game-high 25 points as Portland survived a chilly fourth quarter in which the 76ers went from 16 points down to three points in front in a span of less than eight minutes.
“They played better than us to come back,” McCollum said. “We didn’t get stops when we needed them. We didn’t do a lot of things well, but we did enough toward the end to withstand their run and finish them off.”
Lillard said “it’s huge” to have a teammate capable of beating an opponent with one key play at the end.
“I’m thinking I’m going to get the last shot, but I had no problem swinging the ball to him,” Lillard said. McCollum’s offensive threat “gives our team balance and takes pressure off me.”
And, Lillard said, “it’s fun to watch when he gets going and some of the things he can do.”
Although it turned out to be anything but easy, the Blazers got some revenge and a valuable victory in the NBA playoff chase.
Portland, sixth in the Western Conference, improved to 38-36 and moved 1 1/2 games ahead of idle Houston (36-37) and Utah (36-37), which beat Minnesota 93-84 at Minneapolis. Idle Dallas (35-37) is ninth in the West.
The 76ers lost their eighth consecutive game and 12th in a row on the road and fell to 9-64, the worst record in the league.
Hollis Thompson, Ish Smith and Robert Covington paced the 76ers with 17 points apiece. Smith had a game-high 14 rebounds, five above his previous career high.
For Portland, Al-Farouq Aminu tied his career high with 20 points, Moe Harkless and Lillard each had 16 points, and Gerald Henderson scored 11 off the bench. Lillard also had seven assists and five rebounds, and Ed Davis pulled down 13 rebounds.
The Blazers had suffered one of their worst defeats of the season at Philadelphia, losing 114-89 2 1/2 months ago. But the 76ers’ only leads in the rematch were at 1-0 and 3-2 — until Portland went 4 of 25 from the field in the final quarter (up to McCollum’s winning layup) and had to bring brought Lillard off the bench to help pull out the win.
Lillard’s 3-pointer with 2:37 left gave Portland a 103-100 lead.
A 3 by forward Thompson got Philly to within 104-103. Harkless made a free throw with 46.5 seconds remaining to make the score 105-103. Then Philadelphia guard Smith nailed a 15-foot jumper to tie the game with 23.9 seconds to go.
“You walk away feeling like we could’ve stole a win on the road,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said.
Philly finished at 41.9 percent from the field (10 of 38 from 3-point range). Portland shot 41.8 percent (8 of 25 on 3-pointers).
“We played well. We played hard,” Smith said.
NOTES: Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, a four-year college starter at Oklahoma (1976-80), was happy to talk before the game about his Sooners, who had just beaten Oregon in Saturday’s NCAA Elite Eight. “I’m really happy for their players and coaches,” said Stotts, who once worked as an assistant to Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger when both were with the Atlanta Hawks. The Sooners will meet Kansas or Villanova in the Final Four. “It’s going to be tough,” Stotts said. “Savor the moment now.” … Philadelphia F Nerlens Noel (bruised knee) was out. … The Trail Blazers will play the rest of the season without F Meyers Leonard, who has pending shoulder surgery. “Since January, he was a big part of our success,” Stotts said. “His effectiveness at both ends improved.” … Saturday’s game marked the start of a key four-game homestand for the Trail Blazers, who could wind up anywhere from fifth in the NBA Western Conference playoff order or out of the postseason. The 76ers came in with the worst record in the league, but owned a victory over Portland, 114-89 on Jan. 16 at Philly. Portland will play host to Sacramento on Monday, Boston on March 31 and Miami on April 2. … The Trail Blazers penciled in 20-year-old F Noah Vonleh for his 57th start of the season, but he came in averaging only 15.5 minutes per game, 10th on the team. His nine points at Philadelphia is only two shy of his high with Portland. … The 76ers are 9-64, and 4-27 since beating Portland. … Philadelphia started a totally different front court on Saturday than in the previous game with the Blazers, with 6-9 Carl Landry at center in place of injured Jahlil Okafor (knee), who had 25 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Portland. At the forward spots, the 76ers went with Hollis Thompson and Jerami Grant, who totaled three points in the previous meeting.