The Portland Trail Blazers ended a four games in five nights road trip with a 105-97 loss to the Thunder in Oklahoma City Tuesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“It was disappointing to lose the game,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, “but, on the road against Oklahoma City, if you can put yourself in a position to win a game late in the fourth quarter, that’s what you want. I thought we played a very good game; I thought it was a good game overall for both teams. It came down to it and they made the plays they needed to.”
With the loss, the Trail Blazers finish the road trip 2-2. With the win, the Thunder passed the Trail Blazers for the second-best record in the Western Conference behind the San Antonio Spurs.
“Definitely not happy about it,” said LaMarcus Aldridge of the road trip. “We put ourselves in position to at least win this one tonight. We didn’t close it out, going 2-2 on a road trip isn’t bad but it’s not great for us.”
Unlike Monday night in Houston, the Trail Blazers got off to a great start offensively in the first quarter in Oklahoma City, hitting five of their first eight shots to take an early 11-2 lead.
But those kind of early leads never last in the NBA, especially not on the road against a team lucky enough to have Kevin Durant on their roster. The perennial MVP candidate would score nine points in just over two and a half minutes to steady the Thunder and get the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd into the game. Durant would net 15 points on six of eight shooting by the end of the first quarter to cut Portland’s lead to 27-21 going into the second quarter.
“You guard him in the game and sometimes you’re right there and you’ve got two guys on him and he make the shot anyway,” said Nicolas Batum, who played 35 minutes despite aggravating his broken left middle finger the night before in the loss to the Rockets. “He’s the MVP.”
The Thunder would all but erase the lead in the next 12 minutes, though they would do so with much more balanced scoring than in the first quarter with both Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson scoring six points in the second quarter.
The Trail Blazers would get their own contributions from Wesley Matthews and Mo Williams, who would finish with 10 and 13 points, respectively, by the halftime break. But despite that, Portland would take just a one-point lead into the intermission.
And just as they did in the first quarter, the Trail Blazers would seize momentum in the third quarter. Portland led by as many as nine after a 13-4 run that would be capped by two free throws from Lillard with 2:34 to play in the third. But the Thunder, thanks mostly to Durant’s shooting and three Portland turnovers, would answer back with an 11-0 run to take a 77-75 lead into the fourth.
It would be a back-and-fourth battle to start the final quarter with both teams trading baskets and control of the lead.
And then, Durant struck again.
After receiving a technical foul for slamming his hand into the scorer’s table, Durant responded with a made layup followed by a three-pointer to tie the game at 95-95. Then he hit a three-pointer. And then another. And another.
“MVP performance,” said Stotts of Durant. “To score 46 points on 25 shots, six of seven from threes, and I think he got a couple of his shots blocked. It was a remarkable performance. He made shots when they mattered. He took his time and didn’t force it. He took what was there, and he made some great shots.”
Add in both Jackson and Kendrick Perkins hitting timely jumpers and the result was a 15-0 Thunder run to end the game.
“We gave ourselves a chance down the stretch,” said Lillard. “We missed a lot of shots that we’ve been making. It’s been a tough trip so when it came down to it, time to win the game, they made shots and we missed a few opportunities. “
Portland would get 29 points from Aldridge, though he missed his last five shots at a time when the Trail Blazers needed something to stop Oklahoma City’s momentum.
“They went to me late in the game and I missed shots,” said Aldridge, who also added 16 rebounds. “Part of this is on me. I have to make shots down the stretch. That’s my job on this team and tonight I didn’t do it.”
Matthews finished with 21 points on seven of 15 shooting, four assists and four rebounds in 35 minutes. Robin Lopez tallied yet another double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds.
Lillard would add 14 points and Williams would finish with a game-high nine assists.
With the trip completed, the Trail Blazers return home to host yet another Northwest Division Rival, the Denver Nuggets, on Thursday at the Moda Center.
“We didn’t go 0-4,” said Damian Lillard of the trip. “We got two wins out of it, we would have liked to played a better game (Monday night), we had a chance tonight. We’ve got another one coming up so we’ve got to take what we can from it and move on.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM.