On Sunday night, the Portland Trail Blazers did what few teams have been able to do against the Thunder this season.
The Blazers held Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin under their season scoring averages and sent OKC to the free-throw line just 18 times, which was well under its season average of 27.5 attempts per game.
With less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Portland was dead-even with the Thunder at 65-65 in a building where the home team was 21-2 against Western Conference opponents and 30-5 overall.
All these accomplishments, yet the Blazers still ended up losing 103-83 to OKC before a sellout crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Portland (33-37) endured a wicked display of the Thunder (52-19) doing very little wrong in the final 13 1/2 minutes.
OKC outscored the Blazers 38-18 down that final stretch, outshooting the visitors 66.7 percent (12 for 18) to 31.6 percent (6 for 19) from the field in the final period.
With Portland hanging tough and trailing just 88-83 with 6 minutes left, the Thunder closed out the game with a 15-0 run.
Playing their fifth game in seven nights, the Blazers ran out of juice.
“We just didn't have it at the end,” said Portland coach and former Oklahoma standout Terry Stotts. “They're a talented team that creates a lot of problems at both ends of the floor. I don't think the final score is indicative of how the game went, but my hat's off to them. They're a good team.”
The Blazers shot just 31.0 percent in the second half while getting outscored 58-36 by OKC, which shot 60.5 percent from the field after intermission.
This came on the heels of Portland taking a 47-45 lead into halftime after shooting 63.2 percent in the second quarter.
That's when the Thunder turned its defense up a notch, no doubt after some prodding from coach Scott Brooks, who said: “The defense really picked up as the game went along.”
It was Brooks' anger that led to his team pulling away.
With 2:53 left in the third quarter, Brooks picked up his second technical foul of the season after boisterously pleading for referee James Williams to “call a foul.”
In a 10-2 run that took less than two minutes, Westbrook had five points, a rebound, a steal, a dunk a layup and a free throw to blow the game open, and it all started with Brooks' technical.
“Russell really changed the game during that stretch, defensively and offensively, at the end for the third quarter,” Brook said. “He definitely changed the game those two or three minutes. The game was still anybody's game.”
In the fourth quarter, the four-guard lineup of Durant, Westbrook, Martin and Reggie Jackson, plus forward Serge Ibaka, went on a 13-0 run in a four-minute span.
Jackson finished with six points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals in 15 minutes of play.
“I think he's improving,” Brooks said of Jackson. “There's no question that he still has a lot of things that he will continue to get better at. He's in a good position. He's on a good team. He's going to get better, but he's not going to get a lot of time right now.”
Durant (28.4 scoring average) finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds for his 17th double-double of the season. Westbrook (23.3 ppg) had 21 points, nine assists and four rebounds. Martin (14.3 ppg) had 11 points and was 2 for 2 on 3-pointers.
The difference-makers were Jackson and Ibaka, who scored all 16 of his points (7 for 9 from the field) in the second half, and Nick Collison, who had 10 points and six rebounds.
The Thunder is now 23-2 when five players score in double-digits.
Asked if having five players in double-figures each game was a reasonable expectation, Brooks said: “To score (five players in) double-figures night in and night out, I don't know if that's realistic with our group … Occasionally, yes.”
OKC shot 52.4 percent for the game and upped its record to 24-1 when shooting 50-plus percent from the field.
The Thunder also is 16-1 when its opponent shoots less than 40 percent, which the Blazers nearly did finishing at 40.5 percent.