The Portland Trail Blazers beat the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers 118-111 on Saturday night at Moda Center, stringing together three straight wins for the first time this season behind a dominant performance from Damian Lillard.

Convincing double-digit victories would obviously be the most ringing endorsement of the Blazers' long-shot title hopes. But a trio of consecutive wins that came down to crunch-time is a positive indicator for Portland nonetheless, especially considering rookie head coach Chauncey Billups seems to have settled on a preferred closing lineup.

Larry Nance Jr. was on the floor in the clutch against the Sixers, just like he was versus the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors. Jusuf Nurkic admitted following the Blazers' victory over Chicago that while winning is still his utmost priority and chief concern, he's still coming to terms with his nightly role while continuing to lose minutes to Nance late in games. Nurkic didn't hide it when he was pulled from Saturday's contest with 4:23 remaining, either.

To be clear, Nurkic throwing his mouthpiece in disgust and expressing audible frustration on the bench wasn't only because Billups had summoned Nance to help Portland put the Bulls away. He'd just picked up a pair of fouls in quick succession trying to slide his feet with Tyrese Maxey on the perimeter, and the latter whistle—while clearly the correct call—came agonizingly late.

Nurkic had just stamped his imprint on both sides of the floor, too, slipping out of a ball screen for a smooth finish on the roll then flying in from the weak side for a block at the rim on Maxey. But once it was clear Nurkic's footspeed would be further exploited by Philadelphia, playing without Joel Embiid, closing small, Billups made the same lineup decision that's recently left his starting center on the bench as games hang in the balance.

“They went at him twice and he got two quick fouls,” Billups said of Nurkic. “Obviously, if the big picks up two quick fouls they're gonna keep going to that, so I felt like having Larry in there, where we can switch one through five and not be in coverage, would give us an advantage. Maxey and those guys started getting downhill, getting to what they wanted.”

The Sixers briskly came within five points of the Blazers after Nance came in for Nurkic, but never got closer. Their 16 points over the game's last few minutes are no indication of lagging defense; most of those points came with Philly playing catchup after the game had already been decided.

Portland's en vogue finishing lineup of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Norman Powell, Nassir Little and Nance has notched 14 fourth-quarter minutes in the last three games. No other lineup has played more than six such minutes over that timeframe. Clearly, Billups has found a combination he likes, and it happens to be one that aligns with the league's collective, increasing emphasis on small-ball.

Nance's acquisition always meant Nurkic would likely lose some fourth-quarter playing time against certain opponents. And as tough a dynamic as Billups know it is for a proud player like Nurkic to swallow, he's not overly concerned with that fallout—especially as the Blazers, now over .500 at 9-8, finally begin to find their groove.

“At the end of the day,” Billups said, “I'm just trying to get the win however we can get it.”