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.
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"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.
After playing only sparingly in San Antonio's first five games, Mills had 18 points in just over 21 minutes against the Kings. Mills spent two seasons in Portland, which selected him with the 55th overall pick of the 2009 draft.
Against the Blazers Mills finished with seven points.
The Blazers went up 17-10 midway through the opening quarter after Batum's 3-pointer.
Rookie Meyers Leonard's tip-in extended the lead to 26-16, but the Spurs answered with consecutive 3-pointers by Jackson, Ginobili and Neal. Ginobili then made a free throw to tie it at 26.
Lillard, the sixth overall pick in the June draft, took over at the start of the second quarter, scoring eight points in a 10-4 run that put Portland up 42-32. Lillard had a fast-break dunk off a steal and two 3-pointers.
Lillard finished the half with a pull-up jumper to give the Blazers a 52-43 lead at the break.
The Blazers got a scare in the second half when Matthews fell awkwardly under the basket. He was face down on the floor for a while before heading to the locker room. A short time later he returned to the bench, apparently unhurt.
The Spurs kept pressure on the Blazers, closing to 67-64 on Neal's pull-up jumper. Part of the problem for Portland was its reserves, who managed just four points in the game.
Matthews' putback made it 79-71, but Ginobili answered with a quick 10-foot jumper and the Blazers carried a 79-73 lead into the final quarter.
The Spurs opened the quarter with a 14-0 run, pulling even on Neal's jumper and then taking the 81-79 lead on Danny Green's 22-footer. Neal and Green added consecutive 3-pointers to put the Spurs ahead 87-79.
"It was fun beginning the fourth quarter sitting on the bench watching our guys get back in that game. Gary and Danny turned things around for us," Duncan said.
Aldridge finished with a season-high 29 points, seven assists and four blocks for the Blazers. He joins four players with that many points, assists and blocks since the 2006-07 season: Russell Westbrook. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Ginobili.
- Some of the players, including Aldridge and San Antonio's Boris Diaw, sported special red, white and blue headbands to honor armed forces veterans.
- Going into the game, San Antonio was allowing opponents an average of 91.7 points a game.