PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — At one point in San Antonio's comeback against the Trail Blazers, Stephen Jackson reached out to high-five Gary Neal. Then Tim Duncan gave him an affectionate pat on the head.
This one was Neal's.
Neal came off the bench to score a career-high 27 points, 20 of them in the second half, and the Spurs rallied from a 14-point third quarter deficit to beat Portland 112-109 on Saturday night.
Neal, called upon to help because Tony Parker was out with the flu, played nearly 32 minutes after averaging just 17 in the Spurs' first six games. He also had seven rebounds against Portland.
"He carried us on his back," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said about Neal. "Sometimes a player will do that, and he picked a good time for it."
The Blazers nearly spoiled the night for Neal, hitting four straight 3-pointers to tie it at 109 with 40.5 seconds left, but Portland stumbled from there and was saddled with its third consecutive loss. Nicolas Batum had a career-high 33 points.
Tim Duncan added 22 points and nine rebounds for the Spurs, who snapped a seven-game losing streak at the Rose Garden.
"It was exciting, just to be part of a win like that," said Neal, who is in his third NBA season. "Since I've been here we haven't beat Portland in Portland, so it was a big win. A great, great team win. I'm glad we were able to pull it out in the end."
The Spurs trailed by as many as 14 points in the third quarter but opened the final period with a 14-0 run to go up 87-79.
Rookie Damian Lillard and Batum each hit a 3-pointer to trim Portland's deficit to 105-103 with 1:57 to go. Duncan dunked before Wesley Matthews made a 3-pointer to get the Blazers within one with 1:28 left.
Duncan made a layup, but Batum answered with another 3. Manu Ginobili made a pair of foul shots with 12.9 seconds left to give the lead back to the Spurs. After Batum missed a 3 that would have given Portland the lead, Stephen Jackson went 1 for 2 at the line with 4.4 seconds to go.
Portland star LaMarcus Aldridge missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Batum said he felt good about the 3-pointer he missed with 7.8 seconds left.
"We should have won the game before that. I need to make those shots, but we should have won the game before that," he said.
Parker and Duncan weren't feeling well but both played in San Antonio's 97-86 victory over Sacramento on Friday night. Jackson missed that game because of the virus, but returned to face the Blazers. Patty Mills started in Parker's place.