02-19-2017  3:21 pm      •     
Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless (4) blocks the shot of Philadelphia 76ers forward Richaun Holmes (22) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Saturday, March 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — As usual, with the clock winding down and the game tied, the Portland Trail Blazers looked to their backcourt to save the day. The player who stepped up to make the save was unexpected.

C.J. McCollum converted a three-point play with 7.6 seconds left to break a tie and lift the Blazers to a 108-105 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

Trapped in the corner near the sideline and the midcourt line, McCollum split two defenders, drove through the lane and hit a layup as he was fouled and stumbled to the floor, helping the Blazers avoid another embarrassing loss to the NBA's worst team.

"It was a great move," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "We were debating whether to call a timeout or not (to avoid a turnover). It looked like he was OK. He made a good read."

Normally it would be Damian Lillard taking the last shot, but the Sixers double-teamed him, forcing a pass off to McCollum. Philadelphia rotated defenders to double-team McCollum, who then found a seam to get to the basket

McCollum finished with 25 points and five assists. Al-Farouq Aminu matched his career high with 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Blazers, who lost by 25 at Philadelphia on Jan. 16.

Down by as many as 16 early in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia rallied to take a 100-97 lead with 3:10 to go behind a 13-0 run, capped off by consecutive 3-pointers from Hollis Thompson.

"I just felt like they played better than us to come back," said McCollum, who also tied his career high with five steals. "We didn't do a lot of things well, but we did enough toward the end of the game to withstand their run and finish them off."

lillard mccollumPhoto: Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) celebrates with teammate C.J. McCollum (3) after hitting a shot late in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Portland, Ore., Saturday, March 26, 2016. The Blazers won 108-105. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

After falling behind, McCollum turned in a three-point play, followed by a Sixers turnover and a 3-pointer by Lillard to put Portland back in front with 2:36 remaining.

Another 3 by Thompson with 1:26 to go made the score 104-103, and after Maurice Harkless made one of two free throws for Portland with 46.5 seconds left, Ish Smith tied the game with a 15-footer with 23.4 seconds left, setting the stage for McCollum.

Jerami Grant missed a pair of free throws with 7.2 seconds left, and the Sixers were unable to foul to stop the clock.

"You walk away feeling like we could have stolen a win on the road," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. "I'm thrilled with their effort.

Smith had 17 points, a career-high 14 rebounds and nine assists. Thompson and Robert Covington also scored 17 for the Sixers, who have lost eight straight and 19 of 20.

Harkless had 16 points and eight rebounds for Portland, Lillard finished with 16 points and seven assists. Gerald Henderson added 11 points off the bench.

Grant scored 13 for the Sixers, and Carl Landry had 12. Nik Stauskas added 13.


Portland entered the game on a 4-8 stretch. In those eight losses, all on the road, Lillard shot just 38.7 percent from the field (63 for 163), well below his season average of 42.5. In the four wins, he was a much better 48.6 percent (36 for 74). Saturday he went 6 for 20 from the floor for 30 percent. From the free throw line, Lillard has been exceptional, win or lose, missing just four of his 87 attempts during that same stretch.



Minutes before he started his pregame media session, Stotts' alma matter, Oklahoma, defeated Oregon 80-68 to advance to the Final Four of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Stotts, who was a Sooner from 1976-80 and an all-Big Eight selection his senior year, jokingly played the Oklahoma fight song on his phone for the assembled Portland-area media. Stotts was an assistant coach in Atlanta under current Sooners coach Lon Kruger, eventually earning his first head coaching job in the NBA when Kruger was fired in 2002. Oklahoma will play Villanova in the Final Four.



76ers: F-C Nerlens Noel missed his second consecutive game with a right knee injury. Brown said before the game that Noel will also sit out Sunday at Golden State. ... Reserves Richaun Holmes and Sonny Weems left the game after each played 6 minutes and did not return. Holmes strained his right Achilles and is doubtful for Sunday; Weems strained his right quadriceps and will be re-evaluated Sunday.

Trail Blazers: Portland improved to 15-3 in its last 18 games at the Moda Center, and 23-1 overall when leading at halftime. ... Harkless was drafted 15th overall by Philadelphia in 2012 out of St. John's. Before playing a game for the Sixers, he was traded to Orlando in the deal that sent Dwight Howard from the Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers and Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia.


76ers: At Golden State on Sunday.
Trail Blazers: Host Sacramento on Monday.

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All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. 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Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. 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