NEW ORLEANS — In a 15-second span, Ryan Anderson produced a pair of pivotal plays to prevent the New Orleans Hornets from squandering a third double-digit lead in a week.
Anderson highlighted a 20-point performance by hitting a 3-pointer with 15.6 seconds left, then a layup as he was fouled with 1.8 seconds to go. The Hornets snapped a three-game skid with a 98-96 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night.
"We're learning and this was a big step for us," Anderson said. "We could have lost this game, too, in a similar way in the fourth quarter. We proved tonight that we can kind of be resilient and hold on."
Wesley Matthews scored 24 points, rookie Damian Lillard added 20 and LaMarcus Aldridge 16 for Portland, which fell three games behind the Los Angeles Lakers — 90-81 winners over Chicago on Sunday — for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"We let one slide," Matthews said.
Anderson's late 3 gave the Hornets a 95-93 lead, but Lillard reached the 20-point mark for a sixth straight game by draining a 3 with 11.2 seconds left.
Greivis Vasquez, who also had 20 points, then dribbled out of traffic along the perimeter, angled hard into the lane and found Anderson sneaking in behind the defense — which had collapsed around rookie forward Anthony Davis — for the winning bucket.
"We kind of ran the play a little wrong, but coach always tells us, if you go hard you can kind of make up for those mistakes," Anderson said. "We did that in the end. Anthony's cut really took my man in, Greivis drove hard and they were expecting him to shoot a floater. My man stepped up (to defend Vasquez) and Greivis made a great play."
Davis finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans, making a critical play in the final half-minute with an offensive rebound. He saved the ball from going over the baseline and whipped a pass to guard Brian Roberts on the perimeter, leading to Anderson's late 3.
"We've had a lot of games we could have won and the fourth quarter has really hurt us," Davis said. "So this win really helped."
Portland was coming off an impressive 136-106 victory in San Antonio on Friday and was looking for a second-straight victory to keep pace with the Lakers. Instead, the Trail Blazers found themselves down by 10 midway through the fourth quarter after Darius Miller, Anderson and Vasquez all made 3s in successive possessions to put New Orleans up 87-77.
But the Hornets earlier this week had blown second-half leads of 17 points to Orlando and 21 points to the Lakers, and nearly collapsed again.
Matthews, who had six 3s in the game, made three during a late 14-3 run, including one that put Portland back in front 91-90 with 2:39 left.
Davis' tip-in briefly restored New Orleans' lead before Nicolas Batum's jumper gave Portland the lead again, setting the stage for the wild finish.
"We were in a position to win a couple of times and we just didn't come up with a rebound or get a stop that we needed," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "It's disappointing to be in that situation and not come away with a win."
With Eric Gordon resting his right knee, as usual, on the second of back-to-back games, the Hornets got a key contribution from Roberts, who had nine points and nine assists in a starting role.
Reserve guard Roger Mason Jr. added 10 points. The Hornets shot 55 percent (11 of 20) from 3-point range, with Anderson hitting four.
"It was just one of those games where they made some shots," Lillard said.
New Orleans also outrebounded Portland 48-30, with 19 offensive rebounds leading to 23 second-chance points.
"I'm just glad we were able to make plays, got stops when we needed to," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "For the most part, our guys aren't afraid of those moments. It doesn't always work out, but our guys are more than capable of finishing out games. We're a young team. We're gaining experience."
JJ Hickson scored 14 points and Batum 11 for Portland.
Hickson had 10 of his points in the first quarter, including a dunk and a driving reverse layup during a 12-0 Portland run that gave the Blazers their largest lead of the game at 22-13.
New Orleans responded with 11 straight points, including Anderson's 3 and short fade, to pull back into the lead early in the second quarter. The spurt, snapped by Batum's 3, comprised the first part of a 20-3 Hornets run that put New Orleans ahead 33-25.
Portland was back within four points when Lillard's jumper made it 48-44, then New Orleans closed out the period with Vasquez's driving layup and Mason's 3 to take a 53-44 lead into halftime.