By RAUL DOMINGUEZ Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Portland point guard Damian Lillard refused to give up when all seemed lost, and nearly willed the Trail Blazers to an improbable win over the San Antonio Spurs.
DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points and San Antonio overcame a sluggish start and Lillard’s hot finish to beat Portland 113-110 Monday night to remain undefeated.
San Antonio is 3-0 for the eighth time in its 43-year history, but this outcome was in doubt until Lillard’s 3-pointer from the right corner bounced in and out as time expired.
“We were on him,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He made shots. He drove it too easily, that’s for sure. We didn’t stay in front of him very well down the stretch, but he’s a great player. He put it on himself to just take it and attack the rim and he did and we didn’t stay in front of him very well.”
Lillard had 28 points, including 18 straight in the final four minutes, as Portland erased a 15-point deficit. The 6-foot-3 guard was limited to 10 points on 3-for-16 shooting through three quarters before going 6 for 12 in the fourth.
“I’m not going to shy away because of that or try to go away and say, ‘Alright, it’s just not my night,’ ” Lillard said. “I’m going to empty it and I’m going to go out swinging.”
He almost took down San Antonio by himself.
The Spurs seemed poised for a comfortable win after narrow victories against New York and Washington, but nearly let the game get away by closing out the contest as sloppily as they opened.
Lillard took the Blazers on an 18-2 run, capped by a pair of 3s to close within 107-104 with 1:57 remaining. A dunk by Lillard cut the margin to a point, 109-108, with 1:10 left. Lillard and Anthony Tolliver missed consecutive 3-point attempts with Portland trailing 113-100. DeRozan missed a pair of free throws, setting up Lillard’s final shot.
“You can never count a guy like Damian out,” DeRozan said. “He could get it going and missed shots are not going to deter him from trying to get it going. You’ve got to be aware and he got it going. Thank God we got bailed out.”
San Antonio outscored Portland 30-27 in the third quarter after scoring just 19 points in the first period.
The Blazers had a torrid start despite playing on the second night of a back-to-back and escaping with a 121-119 victory in Dallas on Sunday.
CJ McCollum added 27 points for the Blazers (2-2).
Derrick White added 21 points, LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 and Bryn Forbes 14.
Blazers: Portland had an 11-man roster available, but coach Terry Stotts opted not to play Nassir Little or Gary Trent Jr. … Former Spurs center Pau Gasol has not played this season for the Blazers as he continues to rehabilitate from left foot surgery in May. … Bazemore finished with three points and three rebounds in 24 minutes before fouling out.
Spurs: San Antonio has the fewest days with a losing record in the last 23 years, falling under .500 for 65 days. … The Spurs will play on the road for the first time this season, taking on former San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers in Los Angeles on Thursday.
Popovich said Dejounte Murray’s minutes will remain restricted after he missed last season following right ACL surgery in July 2018.
Murray will not play in back-to-back games and will be limited to about five minutes per quarter. Murray had seven points and eight assists in 22 minutes against the Blazers.
Popovich said he was not tempted to put Murray back in the game in the fourth quarter to help defensively as Lillard went on his 18-point run.
“No, he’s on a minute restriction,” Popovich said. “Either he’s on a minute restriction or he’s not. One game isn’t that important to put him out there when the docs feel he shouldn’t be.”
Blazers: At Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.
Spurs: At Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.