Lillard scores 29, Blazers defeat Spurs 98-90
Rookie guard Damian Lillard had a career-high 29 points and the Portland Trail Blazers handed the San Antonio Spurs their second straight loss with a 98-90 victory Thursday night.The Spurs, who have lost only six games this season, trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half but Manu Ginobili's layup cut the deficit to 89-85. J.J. Hickson answered for the Blazers with a running hook that made it 91-85 with 2:36 left.Danny Green hit a 3-pointer to pull the Spurs closer again, but Portland clung to the lead and Nicolas Batum - who has been bothered by a sore back - made a 3 that gave Portland a 96-90 advantage with 1:08 left. Batum hit two free throws with 8 seconds to go for the final margin.It was Lillard's 13th game this season with 20 or more points. LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points for the Blazers and Hickson finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds.Tony Parker had 21 points for the Spurs, who were coming off a 99-96 loss at Utah on Wednesday night that snapped a five-game winning streak.The Blazers were coming off a 92-74 victory over Toronto on Monday during which Portland set an NBA record by going 0 for 20 from 3-point range.The Blazers were without starter Wesley Matthews for the second straight game. Matthews strained his left hip in the fourth quarter of a loss last Saturday to the Kings. 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 against the Spurs. Batum also missed the victory over the Raptors, but he started on Thursday night.Luke Babbitt made a 3-pointer to put Portland in front 32-25. But former Trail Blazer Patty Mills hit a 23-foot jumper to tie it 32-all, and Green added a fast-break layup to give San Antonio the lead. It didn't last long, however, and Portland reclaimed the lead with Will Barton's dunk and another 3 by Babbitt.Lillard made a long jumper to end the first half with the Blazers up 49-45.His pull-up jumper made it 61-57 midway through a tight third quarter. Already-hurting Portland got a scare a short time later when Aldridge fell hard to the court and took a few moments to get up.Lillard and Babbitt each hit long jumpers and Sasha Pavlovic added a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 72-61. Lillard had 23 points in the third quarter alone.Parker's layup and jumper pulled the Spurs to 85-81 with 5:16 left.San Antonio is 4-2 on the back end of back-to-back games. The other loss came against the Miami Heat on Nov. 29, notable because coach Gregg Popovich did not play starters Tim Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Green. The Spurs were subsequently fined by the NBA.NOTES: The Blazers held a moment of silence before the game for the victims of the shooting Tuesday night at Clackamas Town Center in suburban Portland. Two people were killed and another was wounded by a masked gunman who fatally shot himself. ... The Spurs beat the Blazers 112-109 on Nov. 10 to snap a seven-game losing streak at the Rose Garden. San Antonio rallied for the win after trailing by 14 points in the fourth quarter.
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