Durant guides short-handed Thunder past BlazersBy Kerry Eggers, The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Mon, Jan 14, 2013 12:50 AM EST
PORTLAND, Ore. -- There was no Serge Ibaka, no Thabo Sefolosha in the Oklahoma City Thunder's lineup Sunday night at the Rose Garden. There was way too much Kevin Durant, however, for the Portland Trail Blazers. Durant scored 22 of his 33 points in the second half to lift the Thunder past the Blazers 87-83 Sunday night at the Rose Garden. Oklahoma City (29-8) earned its eighth win in 10 games and 20th in the past 25 outings. Despite missing Ibaka (chest contusion) and Sefolosha (neck strain), the Thunder snapped the Trail Blazers' nine-game home winning streak. Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge scored a season-high 33 points and added 11 rebounds -- his 17th double-double of the season -- but missed a shot in the closing seconds that could have forced overtime. Nicolas Batum had 21 points and seven rebounds for the Blazers (20-17). It was a rough night offensively for both starting point guards. Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and nine assists but shot 5-for-21 from the field. Portland rookie Damian Lillard, who scored a season-high 37 points in Friday's loss at Golden State, finished with nine points and nine assists after a 3-for-14 shooting performance. "It was just me missing shots," Lillard said. "A lot of shots I missed, (Westbrook) wasn't even near to contest them." Oklahoma City shot 45.1 percent from the field (32-for-71), while Portland shot only 36 percent (31-for-86). "It was inspired defensive basketball," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "One of our best defensive games of the year, which was surprising, because we didn't have two of our best defensive players in the lineup." Lillard added, "(Going against) the top team in the league, probably, it was just a rough night for us as a team offensively. (Aldridge) really had it going and carried us offensively, and Nic knocked some shots down. Outside of those two, we struggled." Trailing by a point at halftime, Oklahoma City opened a 63-52 lead midway through the third quarter, Durant scoring 11 of the Thunder's 21 points in the run. He finished with 13 points in the quarter, sending Oklahoma City into the final period ahead 68-59. The Thunder led 84-74 with 3:20 remaining, but the Blazers scored the next six points, Batum's put-back making it 84-80 with 1:55 left. Neither team scored again until Batum nailed a 3-pointer with 16 seconds to play. Westbrook was stripped as the Thunder brought the ball upcourt -- he thought he was fouled -- but Batum missed a driving layup. Kendrick Perkins was fouled on the rebound with 8.5 seconds to go. He missed the first free throw, then made the second to give Oklahoma City an 85-83 lead. After a timeout, Aldridge launched a turnaround, 18-foot air-ball. "Took one dribble and shot it," he said. "Thought it was good, and it was bad. A bad shot by me. Have to do better." Westbrook was fouled on the rebound and, with 1.7 seconds left, he sank two foul shots to ice the win for the Thunder. Portland coach Terry Stotts said there were three options on Aldridge's final shot. "Nic was setting a back-screen for Wes (Matthews)," Stotts said. "Then Nic was coming for a hand-back to an open court. We didn't get the hand-back. If that wasn't there, (Aldridge) was going to drive. (The Thunder) defended it well. "I'm not going to criticize our guys. They played their (tails) off, were in position to put it into overtime and didn't quite get it done." NOTES: Oklahoma City posted its lowest point total since an 86-84 loss to San Antonio in the season opener. ... Portland had won 12 of its previous 16 games. ... The Thunder have won four in a row against the Blazers. ... Veteran Nick Collison and second-year pro DeAndre Liggins got starts in place of Ibaka and Sefolosha. Liggins responded with career highs in points (11) and rebounds (nine). He shot 4-for-6 from the field, including 3-for-3 from 3-point range. Collison scored eight points. ... Portland shot 6-for-21 (28.6 percent) from 3-point territory Sunday after firing up a franchise-record 43 3-point attempts in Friday's 103-97 loss the Warriors. The Blazers made 15 3-points at Golden State. Did they attempt too many shots from beyond the arc? "In that game, no," Stotts said. "In the second half, we were 11-for-22. I'll take that all day. I don't go into a game saying we'll shoot 43 3s, but there weren't too many bad ones. I want our guys to have the confidence to shoot them. We wouldn't have made it a game if we hadn't shot all those 3s."
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