EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jerryd Bayless got a chance to play with point guard Steve Blake sidelined with a separated shoulder and the Portland Trail Blazers' rookie took advantage against the New Jersey Nets.
Bayless scored a career-high 23 points and seemingly took the life out of the Nets with a monster dunk that he converted in a late three-point play in Portland's 105-99 victory on Thursday night.
"I think tonight was kind of my night," said the rookie from Arizona, who had scored 53 points in his previous 18 games this season. "I helped the team out. I found my comfort level."
It was unexpected help. Bayless had never scored more than eight points in a game, but he also was never a part of coach Nate McMillan's rotation.
With Blake expected to be out a week to 10 days, Bayless played 25 minutes.
Bayless was 6-for-9 from the field, with most coming on tough drives down the lane. He also was perfect on 11 free throws.
"I finally let the game come to me," Bayless said. "Now I can play and be free. It's just kind of a mental thing. Now I am out of the stranglehold."
The play most people will see on the highlight film will be his two-handed dunk with 3:20 to go that put Portland ahead 95-89.
"It was crazy," said Brandon Roy, who led Portland with 29 points. "That's what we have been expecting from him. He does it in practice and he finally got one down in the game. He put it on his head. He was so excited I don't think he knew he got fouled."
Roy, who also added eight rebounds and five assists, said Bayless is going to make the Trail Blazers better.
"I have been telling him to stay patient, that the minutes would come," Roy said. "He is the first guy in the gym and the last one out. It paid off tonight. Once he gets comfortable, we are going to be dangerous. He is tough going to the basket and he opens up the floor. As he gets more confidence, we're going to be really tough."
Devin Harris had 23 points and eight assists to lead New Jersey, who surrendered 37 fourth-quarter points as Portland hit 13 of 19 shots. Rookie Brook Lopez added 17 points, Bobby Simmons 14 and Vince Carter 13 while playing with a slightly sprained ankle.
"It's frustrating," Harris said. "This is one we could have won and we let ourselves down in the end. It's tough defensively when we don't get stops and they get a high percentage of their shots to go in."
The game pitted two teams a day after coming off their most-lopsided losses of the season. Portland lost by 21 points to Philadelphia in a game it lost Blake. The Celtics blew out the Nets by 32 points in Boston.
Roy, Bayless, Aldridge and Outlaw took over in the fourth quarter, scoring the Trail Blazers' final 34 points with each hitting clutch baskets down the stretch.
Outlaw hit consecutive 3-pointers early in the quarter to help Portland open an 87-82 lead and Aldridge hit an off-balance jumper after collecting a loose ball after New Jersey got within 90-89 on a fast break by Harris.
Bayless then drove the baseline for his resounding three-point play.
The Nets got within four points two other times but Roy drove the lane for a basket with 2:49 to go and Aldridge hit a jumper with 2:06 to play on an assist by Roy, who also had eight rebounds.
Down 69-59 after Harris converted the free throw following a technical foul to McMillan, the Trail Blazers got back in the game with a 9-2 spurt that was capped by a 3-pointer by Outlaw and a rebound follow by Joel Przybilla, who had 11 rebounds.
That got the Trail Blazers within 71-68 after three quarters. A 3-pointer by Rudy Fernandez tied the game early in the fourth quarter and Portland took the lead for good at 77-76 when Outlaw converted 1 of 2 free throws with 9:03 to play.
Portland center Greg Oden had two points in 13:23. ... Blake returned to Portland on Thursday. ... The Trail Blazers are 13-3 vs. the Eastern Conference. ... The Nets start a four-game road trip after playing host to Boston on Saturday.
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