Aldridge leads Trail Blazers over Thunder

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 31, 2013 at 10:42 pm •  Published: December 31, 2013
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — After dropping two straight games on last-second shots, the Portland Trail Blazers were determined not to let it happen again on Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points and 14 rebounds and the Blazers rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to beat the Thunder 98-94 in a showdown of Western Conference heavyweights.

Damian Lillard added 21 points and 11 assists and hit a pair of clinching free throws with 2.1 seconds left for Portland, which beat Oklahoma City for the second time in December. Portland (25-7) snapped a two-game losing streak but still trails Oklahoma City (25-6) by a half-game in the Northwest Division standings.

Before Tuesday, Portland had lost consecutive games for the first time all season, falling to Miami on Saturday and at New Orleans on Monday. But this time, it was the Blazers who made the winning plays in the final moments.

"It was huge," Lillard said. "The better teams in the league, a lot of times, they don't lose two in a row. They hardly ever lose three in a row. We knew that that's not something we wanted to deal with, losing three in a row, especially after two heartbreakers. (Tuesday) we defended a lot better, we were focused and we knew what we needed to do coming in. . We just kept with it and grinded it out."

Kevin Durant had 37 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder, who had won 12 of their last 13 and 20 of the last 22 games before Tuesday. But Durant — harrassed by Nicolas Batum's physical defense — managed only one point in the fourth quarter and missed an 11-foot jumper that would have tied the game in the final seconds.

"My teammates told me if I was contested that I probably would have made the shot," Durant said. "I'm sure that's going to replay in my mind for the rest of the night. I wish I could have hit that for my team. We probably would have been in overtime right now."

The Thunder scored only 16 fourth-quarter points and lost for the first time in six New Year's Eve home games since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City led by 13 points midway through the third quarter, but Portland chipped away at that lead and took its first lead since the first quarter at 87-86 on two free throws by Aldridge with 3:58 left. Reggie Jackson answered with a jumper to put Oklahoma City back ahead, but Batum's 3-pointer gave Portland a 90-88 lead and the Blazers never trailed again.

"It's a long way to go," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "It shows what we're capable of doing. We have to sustain it. But to get a win like that, after two disappointing losses, and again, getting it in a back-to-back on the road, that's a good win."



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