LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Damian Lillard scored 41 points and Jeremi Grant drove for a game-winning layup with three seconds left on Sunday as the Portland Trail Blazers dealt the Los Angeles Lakers their third defeat to open the NBA season.
Portland erased an eight-point deficit in the final five minutes and emerged with a 106-104 triumph after Lakers superstar LeBron James missed at the buzzer.
Russell Westbrook missed two late shots, Lillard draining three-pointers after each miss. That included Lillard’s step-back jump shot with 12.4 seconds remaining that put Portland up 104-102.
James responded with a dunk to tie it up, but Grant powered past James to score against a helpless Anthony Davis in the paint.
Lillard scored 12 of his points in the fourth quarter and connected on six of 13 three-point attempts.
“One of our biggest strengths in these first three games has been just sticking with it, showing a lot of resilience and showing trust in each other even after those breakdowns,” Lillard said.
“We had some miscommunications in every quarter of the game. I think the last couple of minutes, once again, we were able to buckle down and show some trust. We were able to get stops and not turn the ball over.”
The Lakers hit just six three-pointers on 33 attempts as the shooting struggles that have dogged them early in their first season under coach Darvin Ham continued.
James finished with 31 points. Davis added 22 with 10 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Westbrook, under scrutiny after scoring just two points in a Thursday loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, finished with 10 points, six rebounds and six assists.
After the game, James was quick to shut down questions from reporters he saw as soliciting criticism of Westbrook’s late-game decision-making, particularly his late failed jump shot attempt with 18 seconds left on the shot clock.
“I’m not up here to do that,” said James, who said the Lakers got the same shot opportunities late in the game that they had earlier.
“Just didn’t make them,” James said. “(Westbrook) got some good looks and wasn’t able to knock them down. Defensively, we couldn’t get multiple stops in a row. And Dame was Dame down the stretch.”
Reigning NBA champion Golden State defeated winless Sacramento 130-125, the Warriors sparked to a home triumph by 33 points from Stephen Curry while Andrew Wiggins and reserve Jordan Poole each added 24.
Cleveland and Utah squeezed out over-time victories, Cleveland pulling away in the extra session to beat the Washington Wizards 117-107 while the Jazz improved to 3-0 with a 122-121 victory over the Pelicans in New Orleans.
Kelly Olynyk’s finger roll layup with 3.1 seconds left in over-time was the game-winner for Utah as the Pelicans’ CJ McCollum missed a shot at the buzzer.
Utah’s Jordan Clarkson twice tied it in the waning seconds of regulation, his three-pointer forcing the extra session with a 110-110 deadlock.
Lauri Markkanen led the Jazz with a double-double of 31 points and 12 rebounds. Olynyk added 20 points and Clarkson had 18.
McCollum scored 28 points to pace the Pelicans, who saw forward Brandon Ingram depart late in the first quarter with concussion-like symptoms after taking an inadvertent blow to the face from teammate Naji Marshall.
Donovan Mitchell, making his home debut in Cleveland after arriving in a blockbuster trade from Utah last month, scored seven of his 37 points in over-time for the triumphant Cavs.
Mitchell converted a three-point play and made a key steal in the final two minutes of over-time.
Anthony Edwards scored a game-high 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Rudy Gobert had 15 points and 15 rebounds to spark Minnesota over host Oklahoma City 116-106.
Devin Booker scored a game-high 35 points to lead Phoenix over the host Los Angeles Clippers 112-95.