Lillard has 38 and Blazers hold off Suns

CJ McCollum added 33 points for the Blazers, who have won three straight

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, left, shoots over Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. The Trail Blazers won 124-121. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, left, shoots over Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. The Trail Blazers won 124-121. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 38 points, including key free throws in the waning seconds, and the Portland Trail Blazers held off the Phoenix Suns for a 124-121 victory on Tuesday night.

CJ McCollum added 33 points for the Blazers, who have won three straight. Portland led by as many as 18 points early in the game but the Suns threatened down the stretch.

Lillard hit a 3-pointer with 6:45 left that put Portland in front 101-95. Eric Bledsoe made a free throw to pull Phoenix within 115-114 with just under a minute left, but he missed the second attempt that would have tied it and Lillard scored a layup on the other end.

Bledsoe hit two free throws to again get within a point, but Lillard was fouled with 13.3 seconds left and made both to put Portland up 119-116.

Devin Booker made a 3-pointer that pulled the Suns within 122-121 but Lillard again hit two free throws with 3.7 seconds left and Booker missed from some 25 feet has time ran out.

Bledsoe finished with 31 points and Booker had 23.

The Suns, who opened the season with four straight losses before winning two of their last three, were without Tyson Chandler because of personal reasons. Chandler has been in double-digit rebounds in three of the last four games for Phoenix.

Suns coach Earl Watson started rookie Marquese Chriss, who was making his first career start. Chriss was a first-round draft pick (eighth overall) out of Washington by the Sacramento Kings, acquired by the Suns in a draft-day trade.

Portland was hurt when they lost starting forward Al-Farouq Aminu to a left calf strain early and he did not return. Aminu is averaging seven points and 7.9 rebounds this season.

McCollum hit his first six shots, including three 3-pointers, and the Blazers jumped out to a 27-12 lead. McCollum matched his career high with 37 points in Portland’s 100-94 victory at Memphis on Sunday.

Booker had 39 points in the Suns’ 119-108 loss at the Lakers on Sunday, after scoring 38 in a 112-111 overtime victory over New Orleans on Friday, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to have back-to-back games with at least 38 points.

Booker had 11 points in an otherwise lackluster first half for Phoenix, which trailed 63-55 at the break. McCollum led all scorers with 23 points.

TIP-INS

Suns: The Suns beat the Blazers 118-115 in overtime last week in Phoenix. The teams play four games this season.

Trail Blazers: Portland made 12 of its first 13 field goal attempts. … It was the second time in his career that McCollum has had back-to-back games with 30 or more points.

MENTOR AND FRIEND: Watson played his final NBA season with Portland and grew close to Lillard. The summer before last, when the Blazers lost four starters and Lillard was the last remaining starter on the roster, Watson said the two talked and he told Lillard he needed to be a leader on and off the court. Lillard responded by organizing a team bonding trip to San Diego and Portland went on to clinch the Northwest Division before advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

“That is when you saw this young group become something else,” Watson said.

UP NEXT

Suns: Host the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night.

Trail Blazers: Visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night. The Clippers beat the Blazers in Portland 114-106 on Oct. 27.