Down but not out
PORTLAND — After the Trail Blazers clawed back from a 23-point deficit and withstood a video review of the final shot, guard Wesley Matthews enjoyed a laugh in the locker room.
"That's how we drew it up," he joked.
Portland edged the Charlotte Hornets 102-100 on Tuesday night, barely escaping after instant replay showed Gary Neal's potential game-tying layup didn't quite beat the buzzer.
Damian Lillard scored 29 points, and LaMarcus Aldridge added 25 points and 14 rebounds for the Blazers, who have won four of five and improved to 5-1 at home.
"It just felt like a game we could turn around," Lillard said. "It was just a matter of us understanding that, 'Hey, if we stick with it, things will come around.'"
Al Jefferson scored 22, and Lance Stephenson had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Hornets.
Portland rallied in the final period. Lillard's 3-pointer and Aldridge's 10-foot turnaround jumper narrowed it to 92-90 with 5:11 left.
The Blazers took their first lead, 97-96, on Steve Blake's 3-pointer with 3:04 to go. Portland stayed in front, going up 102-98 with 14.3 seconds left. After Neal made a layup, Charlotte got the ball with 3.5 seconds left.
It appeared that Neal hit another layup at the buzzer to tie it at 102, but upon review it was determined the ball did not leave his hand in time.
"When I made the basket I thought it was good," Neal said. "It was a bang-bang play, so it was hard to say. I thought it was out of my hand but they said it wasn't, so it wasn't."
Neal also addressed why he didn't go for a 3-pointer and the win. Lillard's defense was the reason.
"A 3 would've been a bad shot in that situation," he said. "The way that Lillard closed in on me, that would have been a terrible shot, a terrible decision. So I drove strong right and attacked the basket, and like I said I was a tenth of a second too late."
The Blazers played without Nicolas Batum, who injured his knee Sunday in the final minutes of Portland's 116-110 victory at home over the Nuggets.
An MRI revealed that Batum has a bruised right knee, which will also keep him out of Wednesday night's game in Denver and Saturday night's game against the Nets.
Still sore and unable to bend his knee very much, Batum said he hoped to return next Monday when the Blazers host the Pelicans.
"I'm glad I won't have surgery or be out for months," he said Tuesday.
Alan Crabbe, a second-year player out of California, made his first NBA start in Batum's place.
Charlotte took a 27-15 lead after a 14-2 run that was capped by Cody Zeller's basket with 2:39 to go in the first quarter.
Brian Roberts hit a layup to give the Hornets a 48-27 lead. Portland narrowed the margin to 64-51 at halftime after Aldridge's layup before time ran out.
Aldridge also hit a jumper to open the second half, but the Hornets kept the Blazers from getting too close. Zeller tossed up a floater that gave Charlotte a 78-64 lead.
The Blazers closed to 85-75 heading into the fourth quarter, then outscored the Hornets 27-15 in the final period.
Charlotte was coming off a 107-92 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.
Hornets: Charlotte's 35 first-quarter points were a season high. The 64 points at halftime were also a season best. ... Jefferson has scored at least 20 points in six straight games.
Trail Blazers: Batum played in all 82 games last season. ... The Blazers are 19-6 against Charlotte in Portland. ... The Moda Center was lit up in red, white and blue for Veteran's Day.
The Hornets had just six offensive rebounds, compared to Portland's 15 — something that wasn't lost on Jefferson. "It was the offensive rebounds, man. A couple of them just bounced right to them, but we didn't do a good job," he said. "That's one of the things about that team. They get a lot of first- and second-chance points."
WELCOME HOME, BLAKE
Blake, in his third tour with the Blazers after he was picked up in the offseason, hit the go-ahead 3. He also played tough despite five fouls. "Steve plays very hard," coach Terry Stotts said. "I think the way he plays is contagious."
The Hornets visit the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.
The Trail Blazers visit the Denver Nuggets tonight.