It had been awhile since Dorell Wright had hit a game-winning shot.
"That's my first one since high school," Wright said after hitting the 3-point shot that carried the Trail Blazers to a 100-99 victory over Sacramento Wednesday night at the Moda Center.
This one was a little bigger than the one he made his senior season at South Kent (Conn.) Prep.
With Portland trailing 99-97 and looking squarely into the sights of an embarrassing loss to one of the Western Conference have-nots, Wright drilled a 3 from the corner off a feed from Damian Lillard with 7.6 seconds remaining.
After a timeout, the Kings got the ball to red-hot rookie point guard Ray McCallum, who launched a 20-footer that bounced off the rim as time expired.
That touched off a celebration by the Blazer bench as teammates congratulated the 6-9, 205-pound Wright.
"Now I don't have to hear nothing bad from my 6-year-old son," Wright said. "I'm pretty sure he was watching. (If the shot had missed) He'd have told me I lost that game for us."
The shot didn't miss, but it was the only one Wright made all night. He was 0 for 4 from the field before Coach Terry Stotts inserted him for the Blazers' final possession, after DeMarcus Cousins had converted a pair of free throws to put Sacramento in front 99-97 with 14.8 seconds left.
Stotts put four 3-point shooters -- Wright joining Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum along with LaMarcus Aldridge -- on the floor. Sacramento coach Mike Malone, evidently not expecting it, sent power forward Reggie Evans out to guard Wright.
The Blazers in-bounded to Lillard, who worked a high pick-and-roll with Aldridge. When Lillard came around the screen near the baseline, he fired a pass to Wright, who was wide open in the far corner. Launch. Splat!
"I had my arms up before the shot went through the net," Batum said. "I knew when (Wright) caught the ball it was going in."
Lillard had a pretty good feeling, too.
"Me and him always talk about that," said Lillard, who finished with 19 points and 10 assists, though with five turnovers. "When he's in at the '4,' his man always ends up sucking into the paint. It's funny that it happened on that last play. and he ended up wide open in the corner.
He has been in the league a long time. As soon as I turned that corner and got my head around, I saw him sliding down. I knew the play would be there.
"He's a shooter, a really confident shooter. He was in the game that late for a reason, and he came in ready."
"That was pretty cool," said Wright, who played only 16 minutes. "Especially sitting over there, being mad at myself for not making shots the whole game. Then coach (Terry Stotts) gave me an opportunity to go back out there. I'm just happy I was able to knock down the shot."
Quipped Stotts: "Dorell picked a good time to make his (one) shot."
Though he had gone oh-fer going into the final possession, did Wright still have confidence in his shot?
"Yeah, of course, when you're a shooter," he said. "I was so mad. Pre-game, I was making all my shots. I got out here tonight and I couldn't make nothing. It goes like that sometimes. Shooters shoot. That's all I try to do -- knock it down with a lot of confidence.
"Dame made a great pass. I used to be an All-American first baseman, so it didn't matter where he threw it. I just caught it and shot it with confidence."
Wright said he was also encouraged with the bigger, slower Evans guarding him.
"When you see a mismatch like that," Wright said, "you start licking your fingers."
Why did Stotts have Wright on the floor?
"He's a threat," Stotts said of the 10-year veteran. "He's been a threat throughout his career. Every time he shoots, I think it has a good chance of going in, no matter what's happened before (in the game). Plus, the odds were he was going to make one."
Wright did, but then the Blazers had to sweat Sacramento's final possession. McCallum -- a second-round draft pick who scored 23 points with eight assists, four rebounds and three steals -- got a good look, but the shot was short as the horn sounded.
"That's a shot I just have to make," McCallum said. "Unfortunately, I didn't knock it down."
It was Portland's sixth win in seven games, but it could have been a disastrous loss for the Blazers (51-28), who are still in the hunt for homecourt advantage in the playoffs. With a loss Wednesday night to Denver, fourth seed Houston (52-26) is only a game and a half ahead of No. 5 Portland, with No. 6 Golden State (48-29) two games back of the Blazers.
Portland shot .507 from the field, but only .304 (7 for 23) from 3-point range. The Blazers were outrebounded 45-43, including 14-5 off the offensive glass, and committed 18 turnovers.
"We played a very bad game," said Batum, who had 11 points and six rebounds. "Bad defense. We let them get to the boards. We had no energy. Maybe it was because we'd clinched the playoffs and had 50 wins. We won the game, but "
The Blazers opened a 15-point lead in the second quarter and were in front 56-46 at halftime. The Kings (27-52), playing without injured starters Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay, clawed back and took the lead twice in the game's final minute.
"We made that a lot tougher than it should have been," Lillard said. "Double-digit lead but in the second half, we didn't come up with rebounds, didn't make plays to finish the game out. And they made a huge charge."
"I don't know if we'd have won a playoff game tonight, but we showed signs of good basketball," Stotts said charitably. "Going into the playoffs, my biggest concern going into the playoffs is sustaining the quality of play for the whole game. We had our ups and downs tonight."
NOTES: The Trail Blazers' next action is Friday night at Utah, their final road game of the regular season. Portland finishes out with home dates against Golden State on Sunday and the Los Angeles Clippers next Wednesday. Portland is 26-4 in games in which it holds opponents below 100 points. The Blazers are now 3-8 in games decided by two points or fewer. "It's good to get one of these close wins," Stotts said. "It's been awhile. No matter how it comes, it gives us a little momentum." Aldridge led five players scoring in double figures with 22 points for the Trail Blazers (51-28), who won their second straight. Matthews scored 19 points for the winners. It was the 50th game of 20 points or more for Aldridge, a career high.
Thomas Robinson had a nice game off the bench for the Blazers with eight points on 4-for-5 shooting and nine rebounds in 14 minutes. Portland rested sixth-man Mo Williams. "His knee is a little sore, but he's fine," Stotts said. "An extra two days will be good for him." Cousins clinched a spot on the Blazers' All-Opponent team. The fourth-year center scored at least 30 points in each of Sacramento's four meetings with Portland this season, averaging 33.8 points and 11.5 rebounds. Cousins set a franchise record with his 51st double-double. former Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham had a tough game off the bench for the Kings, making only 1 of 6 shots and scoring two points in 12 minutes.