A steady hand and cool demeanour helped Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 points each as Portland shot its way to a 118-110 overtime victory over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
Nicolas Batum added a season-high 24, and the Blazers overcame a late push by Toronto to pick up their sixth straight victory.
“We didn’t have a reason to be all riled up,” Lillard said. “They played well getting back into the game. I think we were calm because we knew what we needed to do to win the game and we were able to get that done.”
Portland (8-2) held a three-point halftime lead after giving up 58 per cent shooting to the Raptors (4-7) in the first half. Outscoring Toronto 22-15 in the third quarter, the Trail Blazers took a 10-point advantage into the fourth where they continued to connect from downtown.
Despite leading by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, they allowed the Raptors to get back into the game and Rudy Gay to force overtime with a buzzer-beating layup.
Portland finished the game connecting on a season-high 14 three-pointers.
“It’s tough when they’re knocking down shots like that,” Gay said. “No matter how much we rotate, move it around and switch, it’s tough to play when a team has it going. I’m not happy they made shots, but I’m happy with the effort we put forth.”
Portland’s ability to heat up from three wasn’t a surprise to the Raptors. Raptors coach Dwane Casey talked about Portland’s potent offence prior to Sunday’s game.
“(They’re) one of the best offensive teams that we’ve seen,” Casey said. “I think as far as scoring the basketball, averaging 103 points a game, they are a very explosive offensive team so we’ve got to be on point. We’ve got to guard the three-point line.”
Gay tied a season-high with 30 points to go with 10 rebounds for the Raptors while DeMar DeRozan scored 29 points. Jonas Valanciunas added a season-high 19 points in the loss.
“They got aggressive and we got passive,” said Lillard. “They started to attack us on the offensive end. They got some and-ones and hit some threes and we struggled on offence. We started to stall, get a little passive, a few turnovers, missed shots and they found their way back into the game.”
The Blazers connected on a season-high 15 three-pointers, finishing 15-for-32 from beyond the arc. Toronto made just three three-pointers.
While Portland looked shaky down the stretch, they were poised in overtime. Lillard was three-for-three from the floor in the extra period, while Batum scored on each of his three-point attempts. Mo Williams sealed the game at the free-throw line.
“The overtime we played well, especially defensively,” Portland head coach Terry Stotts said. “I was proud of the way we competed in overtime, made plays , and got the win.”
Toronto struggled to get going in the extra session, shooting just 2-for-12 from the floor as the Blazers continued to patiently move the ball and connect on 5-for-8 field goals.
Lillard wasn’t thrilled with the fourth quarter collapse, but was pleased that his team took care of business in overtime.
“We could have folded,” Lillard said. “Once we got to overtime on the bench we just said we need to get some stops, we need to execute and pull this game out. Then we went on the floor and we did it.”
Batum echoed Lillard’s statements and wanted his team to use the game as a lesson.
“This wasn’t the first time we have done it,” Batum said. “Four or five times in a row we’ve had a good lead and had to close out the game and the other team came back. It paid off right now because we won in overtimeawhen you are up 15, 18 points with seven minutes to go, we have to close out the game.”