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Aldridge scores 38 as Blazers beat Thunder

The SportsXchange

PORTLAND, Ore. -- In the closing seconds Monday night at the Moda Center, with forward LaMarcus Aldridge at the free-throw line, the fans serenaded the Portland Trail Blazers' best player with chants of "M-V-P!"

Aldridge came through with a Most Valuable Player-esque effort, scoring 38 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in Portland's 111-104 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The 6-foot-11, two-time All-Star scored 26 points in the second half as the Trail Blazers (16-3) rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to beat the Thunder (13-4). Portland passed the San Antonio Spurs (15-3) to secure the best record in the Western Conference.

Aldridge shot 17-for-28 from the field and 4-for-4 from the foul line.

"He's the best power forward in the game," Portland guard Wesley Matthews said. "He's got to be getting MVP votes with the way we're playing, with the level he's playing at. He's willing us (to win) right now."

Besides Aldridge, the Blazers' other four starters scored between 14 and 12 points. Forward Nicolas Batum and guard Damian Lillard each had 14, Matthews finished with 13 and center Robin Lopez added 12.

Forward Kevin Durant scored 33 points and guard Russell Westbrook added 21 for Oklahoma City, which saw its eight-game winning streak end.

Aldridge, who spent all eight of his NBA seasons with the Blazers, was touched by the fans' reaction near game's end.

"It was just surreal," he said. "It was humbling to have that moment here. I've been here so long, and I've had very few of those chances. That was fun. That made the night complete for me."

Even Durant, who had a terrific night, was in awe of Aldridge's performance.

"He was shooting turnarounds from almost the 3-point line on top of our bigs and knocking them down," Durant said. "That's what great players do. They come through in the clutch. He's a shot-maker."

Durant had 17 first-half points and six rebounds as the Thunder got some separation late for a 59-48 halftime advantage.

Aldridge scored 16 points -- on 8-for-9 shooting, all the baskets jumpers from the perimeter -- as Portland outscored the Thunder 35-21 in the third quarter to take an 83-80 lead into the final period.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by forward Dorell Wright and Lillard gave the Blazers a 91-84 lead with 7:48 to play. Oklahoma City roared back, going ahead 96-95 on two free throws by guard Reggie Jackson with 5:03 left.

Aldridge scored baskets on four consecutive possessions to push Portland in front 105-100 with 2:20 to go, but the Thunder came back with four points in a row to cut it to 105-104 with 1:25 remaining.

Neither team scored again until Batum sank a 3-pointer with 28.4 seconds left, giving the Blazers a 108-104 lead.

"It was a good win, especially after we really didn't have much going in the first half," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "In the second half, both our offense and defense picked up. The crowd got into it and everybody contributed, so the second half was great."

Oklahoma City emerged from a tight first quarter with a 27-25 lead despite 12 points from Aldridge. The Thunder extended it to 39-34, but guard Mo Williams' 3-pointer put the Blazers on top 43-42 with 4:40 left in the second quarter.

The Thunder then outscored Portland 17-6 the rest of the half to take an 11-point edge into intermission. Aldridge went scoreless in the second quarter, and Lillard had only five first-half points.

NOTES: Portland is off to the second-best start in franchise history. The Blazers began 18-1 in 1990-91. ... Blazers F LaMarcus Aldridge recorded his ninth double-double of the season. His career-high 17 field goals tied New York F Carmelo Anthony for the most made in a game this season. ... Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant scored at least 20 points in 15 of the team's 17 games. He had seven rebounds Wednesday, ending a four-game string of 20-point, 10-rebound performances. ... The Blazers entered the game ranked second in the NBA in 3-point percentage (.413) and fourth in 3-pointers made per game (9.5), but they were off target from long range against the Thunder. Portland shot 8-for-23 (34.8 percent) from beyond the arc.
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