HOUSTON (AP) — Chris Paul hit an off-balance layup with 0.8 seconds left to lift the Houston Rockets to a 96-94 win Thursday night over the Portland Trail Blazers, who were without start Damian Lillard.
Paul scored 27 points to help Houston get its second straight victory since a loss to San Antonio. The Rockets swept their four-game season series with Portland.
The Rockets led by 24 in the second quarter and still had a big lead with about five minutes left before the Trail Blazers went on a 19-2 run to tie it at 94-all with 6.1 seconds left. James Harden, who finished with 24 points, missed two free throws with 13.3 seconds left before Pat Connaughton tied it with a short basket.
Paul made the winner before crashing to the court. It gave Houston its first points since Harden made a basket with just less than four minutes left. Portland had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but C.J. McCollum’s 3-point attempt was off.
Lillard sat out after spraining his left ankle Tuesday against Dallas. Portland coach Terry Stotts didn’t set a return date but did say he expects to see him in a game before the playoffs begin.
McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 16 points, and Jusuf Nurkic had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Portland scored the first seven points of the second half and cut a 22-point halftime deficit to 13 at the beginning of the fourth. The Trail Blazers were down by 18 late in the third quarter before capping it with a five straight points to cut it to 84-71 entering the fourth.
A basket by Shabazz Napier got the Trail Blazers within 85-75 with about 10 minutes left before both teams began struggling offensively. The teams combined to miss 10 shots over the next three minutes before Clint Capela ended Houston’s drought with a dunk. That started a 7-0 run for the Rockets that made it 92-75.
Harden was shaken up when Wade Baldwin pushed him in the torso as he attempted a layup with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter. He fell to his knees and stayed on the court for a minute before talking to a trainer and remaining in the game.
The Rockets led 66-44 at halftime behind 20 points from Paul and 15 points from Harden.
Trail Blazers: Portland had 18 turnovers. … They made 7 of 22 3-pointers. … Baldwin had 14 points off the bench.
Rockets: Ryan Anderson sat out with a sprained left ankle. … Eric Gordon missed the game because of a foot injury. … Capela had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Trail Blazers: Visit San Antonio on Saturday.
Rockets: Host Oklahoma City on Saturday.
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