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Trail Blazers rally behind Aldridge to beat Thunder

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The Canadian Press
12/31/2013 10:51:30 PM
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points and 14 rebounds and the Portland Trail Blazers rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-94 in a showdown of Western Conference heavyweights on Tuesday night.

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.

Kevin Durant had 37 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder, which had won 12 of its last 13 and 20 of its last 22 games before Tuesday. But Durant managed only one point in the fourth quarter and missed an 11-foot jumper that would have tied the game in the final seconds.

The Thunder, who scored only 16 fourth-quarter points, 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 Nicolas Batum's 3-pointer gave Portland a 90-88 lead and the Blazers never trailed again.

Portland led 94-90 after Robin Lopez hit two free throws with 59.1 seconds left. Jackson, who entered the game as the third-best free-throw shooter in the NBA, went 1 of 2 from the line at the other end.

Portland's Wesley Matthews missed a 3-point attempt and Lillard rebounded, but Thabo Sefolosha stole the ball from him and Lillard fouled him. Sefolosha hit both free throws to pull Oklahoma City within 94-93 with 23.6 seconds left.

Portland's Mo Williams missed two free throws with 15.8 seconds left and Serge Ibaka rebounded for the Thundeer, but Lopez swatted the ball away and it went to Matthews, who was fouled by Durant and made two free throws with 9.2 seconds left.

Durant went to the line with 8.2 seconds left and made the first free throw, but missed the second. The rebound was tipped to him, though, and he had an open look but left the shot short. Sefolosha fouled Lillard, who made both free throws to clinch the win.

Portland 16-game streak of 100-point offensive outings ended, though, as the Blazers shot an uncharacteristic 39.6 per cent from the field (36 of 91) and 24.2 from 3-point range (8 of 33).

Before Tuesday, the Trail Blazers had lost consecutive games for the first time all season, having fallen to Miami on Saturday and at New Orleans on Monday. Portland ended a three-game losing streak to the Thunder in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder is 2-1 since All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook underwent his third surgery since injuring his knee during the playoffs in April. This season, Oklahoma City is 4-2 without Westbrook, who the team has said will be out until after the All-Star break.

There were 10 lead changes in the game's first eight minutes, but the Thunder used a 12-2 run to build a 34-24 lead early in the second quarter. Portland rallied within 40-36 at the 5:30 mark but went more than four minutes without scoring. Portland coach Terry Stotts burned two timeouts while trying to stop a 12-0 run by Oklahoma City and the Thunder led 54-42 at halftime.

Matthews finished with 16 points and Batum added 15 for Portland. Serge Ibaka had 17 points and Reggie Jackson added 12 points and six assists for Oklahoma City.

Notes: Four days removed from his most recent surgery, Westbrook made an appearance in the Thunder's locker room before the game and was using a crutch . Ibaka picked up a quick technical foul from official Joey Crawford after Ibaka complained being called for a personal foul with 5 minutes left in the first quarter . Portland is 6-2 this season against the other 20-win teams in the NBA . Mark King, a Guymon native and the guitarist for rock band Hinder, performed the national anthem.

LaMarcus Aldridge (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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