Guard play, defense propel Blazers past Hornets

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[January 30, 2016]  PORTLAND, Ore. -- Guards Damian Lillard, Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum all had big games for the Portland Trail Blazers in a 109-91 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night at the Moda Center.

Lillard scored 22 points, Crabbe 20 and McCollum 17 for the Trail Blazers (22-26), who won for the seventh time in the last nine outings.

But it was the work at the other end of the floor that drew praise from Blazers coach Terry Stotts.

"Our defense was solid most of the night," said Stotts after the Blazers held Charlotte to .388 shooting from the field. "I liked our aggressiveness on the ball."

Portland broke open a tight game by outscoring Charlotte 33-24 in the third quarter and held off a late Hornets rally. Forward Al-Farouq Aminu (17 points, 12 rebounds) and center Mason Plumlee (13 points, 12 boards) each had double-doubles for the Blazers.

Forward Marvin Williams led Charlotte (22-25) with 20 points and nine rebounds. Guard Brian Roberts came off the bench for 17 points and forward Tyler Hansbrough had 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Hornets.

Portland's perimeter defenders did a number on Charlotte guards Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum, who combined for 5-for-24 shooting.

"After the first quarter, we played a real good defensive game," Lillard said. "We had active hands, we helped each other out and we cleaned up our communication. That's what allowed us to win this game."

The Hornets beat Portland 106-94 at Charlotte on Nov. 15 in a game in which the Blazers trailed by 29 points early in the third quarter.

"They're a totally different team now than when we played in Charlotte," Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. "We're not going to come in and win in a place like this, as well as they're playing, with 16 turnovers and the number of defensive mistakes we made."

Walker scored eight points to help stake Charlotte to a 25-21 lead after one quarter. The score was 27-21 when Portland went on a 12-0 tear to go ahead 33-27. The Blazers took a five-point lead into the half.

Lillard scored 10 points and Crabbe nine as Portland carried a 50-45 advantage into intermission. Walker had 12 points in the half for Charlotte.

Williams knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Hornets a 57-56 lead. Portland used an 11-3 run to go back on top 67-59. Crabbe made three free throws, then a three-point play to up the margin to 78-64. McCollum (10) and Lillard (nine) combined for 19 points in the third quarter as the Blazers went into the final period with an 83-69 edge.

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When McCollum sank a jumper, Portland's lead was 91-71 two minutes into the fourth quarter. The Hornets used an 18-7 run to cut the difference to 98-89 with four minutes left. That was as close as they would get.

Portland remained in eighth place in the Western Conference, only 2 1/2 games behind seventh-place Houston (25-24).

"We're continuing to grow on both ends of the floor," Lillard said. "We're doing a great job of trusting each other, sharing the ball and keeping the ball moving. And defensively, we're taking the challenge. With our length and athleticism and youth, we can be a tough team to play against on that end."

NOTES: G CJ McCollum missed his first six shots but finished 7 for 16 from the field. ... Charlotte was without four of its top seven scorers: C Al Jefferson (knee), C Cody Zeller (shoulder), G Jeremy Lin (ankle) and G Jeremy Lamb (toe). G Michael Kidd-Gilchrist made his season debut, scoring 13 points with seven rebounds in 34 minutes. He had suffered a shoulder injury in the Hornets' preseason opener. ... Charlotte G Nicolas Batum struggled in his first visit to Portland as a Hornet after playing his first seven NBA seasons with the Blazers. Batum, playing his second game back after missing the previous three games and seven of the previous 13 with a toe injury, scored three points on 1-for-11 shooting and had six turnovers. "Before he got hurt, he was playing at an All-Star level," Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. ... Portland coach Terry Stotts said he was "extremely disappointed" that G Damian Lillard wasn't named to the West squad for the NBA All-Star Game. "He deserved to be in it," Stotts said. "I was disappointed with some of the selections. He's probably taking it better than I did."

[ 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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