PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge returned to the Trail Blazers two days after saying he was going to have thumb surgery and had 26 points and nine rebounds in a Portland’s 103-96 victory over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.
Damian Lillard added 20 points and seven assists as the Blazers snapped two-game losing streak.
Tied at 79 midway through the fourth quarter, Wesley Matthews made two 3-pointers that gave Portland an 87-85 with 3:28 left. Lillard’s 3 extended the lead 92-85.
Nene’s layup closed the Wizards to 94-91 but he missed a free throw then fouled Meyers Leonard on a 3-point attempt on the other end. Leonard made all three free throws to put Portland up 97-91 with 1:07 left and Washington couldn’t catch up.
John Wall, this week was named an Eastern Conference starter for the All-Star game, led the Wizards with 25 points and nine assists.
The Wizards, coming off a 105-103 overtime loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday, led by as many as 14 points in the first half.
The Blazers had lost five of their last six, including Thursday night’s last-second 90-89 loss to the Boston Celtics.
Aldridge surprised many in the hours before the game when he suddenly announced that he’d play against the Wizards, after he said Thursday he was going to have surgery to repair a ligament in his left thumb.
Aldridge had expected to be out six to eight weeks following surgery. Now he’s going to try and play as long as possible, despite the pain.
“My idea now is to play the rest of the season,” he said before the game. “But if it gets too much where I can’t handle it or I’m not playing at a very good level then I’ll stop. But hopefully it goes well for us.”
The crowd greeted him with a thunderous ovation during player introductions.
Despite the emotional boost from his return, the Blazers didn’t hit a shot from the floor in the first 4 minutes of the game. Then Aldridge made his first two jumpers.
The Wizards took advantage of the slow start and led 32-20 after the first quarter. Nene paced Washington with 11 points.
CJ McCollum hit a 3-pointer that pulled the Blazers to 43-39 but Wall answered with a jumper and the Wizards led 55-45 at the break.
Paul Pierce hit a 3, the 2,000th of his career, to put the Wizards up 66-58 midway through the third quarter. Pierce is the fourth player all-time to reach that milestone. He joins Ray Allen, Reggie Miller and Jason Terry.
Wesley Matthews answered with a 3 for the Blazers to narrow the gap to 66-61. Dorrell Wright got Portland closer with a falling-down 3 and a free throw that made it 68-67.
Aldridge hit a 20-foot-jumper to pull the Blazers in front, capping their 16-5 run.
But it was short-lived and the Wizards led 70-69 going into the final quarter.
Wizards: It was the first of a four-game Western Conference road swing for Washington. … Nene fouled out on the foul against Leonard.
Trail Blazers: The Blazers distributed special lapel ribbons to the fans at the Moda Center to call attention to owner Paul Allen’s campaign to fight the spread of Ebola. Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft who also owns the Seattle Seahawks, has already pledged $100 million toward the effort.
Wizards: At Denver on Sunday night.
Trail Blazers: At Brooklyn on Monday.
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