Lillard leads Blazers into Charlotte

11:35 AM, Dec 3, 2012   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - Portland Trail Blazers rookie point guard Damian Lillard has exceeded expectations in his inaugural NBA season.

Lillard and the Blazers are back in action Monday against the Charlotte Bobcats in the continuation of a seven-game eastern road trip. Lillard helped Portland end a four-game losing streak to start the trek with 24 points and 11 assists in Saturday's 118-117 double-overtime win at Cleveland.

The sixth overall pick in the NBA Draft leads all rookies in scoring (18.8 ppg), field goals (111), free throws (54), assists (6.2 apg), steals (1.35 spg) and minutes (37.3 mpg), and leads all first-year players with 10 games of 20-plus points. According to Portland's team notes, Lillard, Derrick Rose and Allen Iverson are the only players to record 300 points and 100 assists in their first 17 career games.

Nicolas Batum deserves some credit in the win over the Cavaliers, burying the go-ahead 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left in double overtime. Lillard dished the ball to an open Batum, who sank the 3-pointer in front of the Cleveland bench and finished with 22 points. LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Blazers, who improved to 3-0 in overtime games this season.

"It was much needed, that's an understatement," Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said of the victory.

Portland is 3-7 outside of the Rose City and will close out the road swing Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers.

The Bobcats already have as many wins (7) as they had a season ago and will continue a three-game homestand Monday night.

Charlotte started the residency with a 104-98 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers and Ben Gordon came off the bench to score 19 points. Jeff Taylor scored 16 points, Bismack Biyombo added 14 and Kemba Walker posted 13 points and nine assists for the Bobcats, losers in three straight and four of five games.

"Any time you trade baskets with a good team, quality team like that, it's going to bite you in the butt," Gordon admitted. "We didn't do a good job of getting stops when we needed, getting key rebounds when we needed."

Gordon is averaging 18.3 points on .500 shooting in his last four games. He is 15-of-24 from 3-point territory in that time.

The Bobcats are in the midst of playing six of seven games at home and have 5-4 mark as the host. They will wrap up the homestand Wednesday versus New York, before hitting the road to Milwaukee on Friday.

If Charlotte can make it close toward the end of Monday's game, it will have a good chance to come out on top as evidenced by a 6-1 mark in games decided by four points or less. Last season, the Bobcats were 3-10 in games decided by a margin of four or fewer points.

Taylor has scored in double figures in six of his last seven games, averaging 11.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.0 assists in that span. Walker has scored 10 or more points in 14 of 15 games this season.

Charlotte lost its only matchup with Portland a season ago, dropping a 112-68 decision at the Rose Garden. The Blazers have won five of the last six contests in this series.

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