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12/17/2012 1:03 AM EST
Lillard's last-second 3 lifts Blazers over Hornets
PORTLAND 95, NEW ORLEANS 94

By ANNE M. PETERSON
AP Sports Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- There was a split-second as his shot arced
over a defender's hands that Trail Blazers rookie Damian Lillard
realized his game-winning 3-pointer was going to fall.



"I looked. And it looked good," he said.



Lillard's 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left helped Portland hand
New Orleans its sixth straight loss with a 95-94 victory over
the Hornets on Sunday night.



After trailing by as many as 16, the Hornets tied it at 92 on
Austin Rivers' 3-pointer with 50.9 seconds left. The Blazers
then absorbed a blow when LaMarcus Aldridge suddenly came up
limping and headed to the locker room with what appeared to be a
left ankle injury, but Lillard came through to give Portland the
win.



The winning shot appeared to come at the buzzer but a review put
the 0.3 fraction back on the clock. Lance Thomas made an
alley-oop layup from Ryan Anderson as time ran out for the final
margin.



"You need .04 to get the shot off, so we just ran a play for
execution. There was not time for us to get a shot off, with
them grabbing and holding Ryan it was going to be tough for him
to get a shot off, so we were working on execution," Hornets
coach Monty Williams said. "According to the rules you need .04
to get a shot off. It was a situation where we worked on
something we would need in the future."



However, the NBA's so-called Trent Tucker rule says there has to
be at least 0.3 on the clock for a player to gain control of a
rebound or inbound pass and shoot a field goal. The only type of
field goal which may be scored if the clock is at 0.2 or less is
a tip-in or high lob.



J.J. Hickson had a season-high 24 points and added 16 rebounds
for the Blazers, who have won three straight. Hickson has five
straight double-doubles and 13 overall this season.



Anderson had 26 points, including seven 3-pointers, for New
Orleans - so why he didn't take the final shot was perplexing.



"There was not a lot of time on the clock," Anderson said. "It
would have been tough, I don't even know if we could have got a
shot off in time. Coach was saying you need .04 to get set and
get a shot off."



Aldridge had 20 points before leaving the game and the team
later said that X-rays were negative. Lillard finished with 16
points.



"I was excited to win the game. We had a big lead, we let them
fight back and tie the game up and we were looking at overtime,
so I was kind of relieved and excited at the same time," Lillard
said.



Wesley Matthews, who hit a 3-pointer to open the night for the
Blazers, was making his return to the starting lineup after
missing two games because of a strained left hip. The injury put
him on the bench in street clothes for the first time in his
four-year NBA career. He had played in 250 straight games,
second-most among active players behind Oklahoma City's Russell
Westbrook.



Matthews was replaced by Victor Claver less than five minutes
into the game and did not return. The Blazers said there was no
specific injury, he just "didn't feel right."



Lillard stole the show in the battle of the rookies with Anthony
Davis.



Davis, the top pick in last June's draft, is still getting his
legs back after missing 11 games with a left ankle injury. In
the first three games off the bench since his return, he
averaged 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds for the Hornets.



Against the Blazers he had 15 points. Before the stress reaction
in his ankle, Davis was averaging 16 points and 8.3 rebounds.



Lillard, the sixth overall pick in the draft, has been the
Western Conference's rookie of the month for both October and
November, and was leading all rookies with an average of 18.9
points going into Sunday night's game.



Hickson pushed Portland's first-half lead to 51-38 with a layup
and the Blazers went into the break ahead 54-43.



Aldridge's dunk made it 67-53 midway through the third quarter.
But it was Hickson's 11 points that helped put the Blazers up by
as many as 16 in the period.



Anderson's putback layup closed the Hornets to 82-75 with 7:55
left, but Luke Babbitt answered for the Blazers with a
3-pointer.



Anderson made a pair of free throws to close New Orleans to
within 85-80. His 3-pointer pulled the Hornets to 90-87 with
3:21 left. Lance Thomas got them closer with a putback but
Aldridge had a step-back jumper with 1:04 to make it 92-89.



Notes: Earlier Sunday, the Hornets signed forward Dominic
McGuire to shore up their frontcourt in the absence of Jason
Smith, who is out with a right shoulder injury. Smith was
injured in the Hornets' loss at Oklahoma City earlier this week
and is expected to be out about two weeks. McGuire averaged 2.1
points and 3.2 rebounds in just over 15 minutes per game for the
Toronto Raptors earlier this season, appearing in 15 games
before he was waived on Nov. 30. ... The Blazers held a moment
of silence before the game for the victims of the Sandy Hook
Elementary School shooting before the game. It is the second
straight game with a moment of silence: On Thursday the team
remembered the victims of the Clackamas Town Center mall
shooting in suburban Portland.

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