Oklahoma City Thunder 91 – Portland Trail Blazers 98


PORTLAND, Ore. — LaMarcus Aldridge insists he isn’t nervous about how all this playoff positioning will ultimately shake out.

“I feel like if we stay solid and we keep playing like we did tonight, we’ll be fine,” he said after the Portland Trail Blazers snapped Oklahoma City’s five-game winning streak with a 98-91 victory Friday night.

Aldridge scored 32 points and Nicolas Batum added 19 for the Blazers, who have won seven straight at the Rose Garden.

Portland is in sixth place in the Western Conference, a game ahead of New Orleans and Memphis, and 2 1/2 games behind Denver.

The victory was important for Portland not only because of the sprint toward the playoffs, but because the Blazers had dropped the first three games of the season series with the Thunder.

“We found a way to get this win and it was a big win for us,” said Andre Miller, who had 13 points. “No team wants to get swept four times in the division and a playoff berth so close.”

Portland led by as many as 12 points early in the fourth quarter, while Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant struggled to find his shot and Kendrick Perkins sat because of foul trouble.

The Thunder, fourth in the conference, closed to 93-88 on Durant’s 3-pointer but couldn’t catch up in the end. Durant led the Thunder with 25 points and 11 rebounds, but he had a string of 11 straight misses from the floor in the second half.

“The shots I was missing, I just have to laugh at,” Durant said. “I was doing all the things I usually do, and they just didn’t fall.”

The Trail Blazers had lost three of their previous six games, including a 99-90 loss at Oklahoma City this past Sunday. Portland was coming off a 95-91 loss at New Orleans.

Durant scored 11 points as the Thunder built a 22-12 lead in the first quarter. Oklahoma would lead by as many as 12 early.

The Blazers closed to 47-45 midway through the second quarter on Batum’s 3-pointer, but Durant answered from long range.

Batum came on as a reserve after Blazers coach Nate McMillan switched up his lineup, starting center Marcus Camby and moving Gerald Wallace to small forward.

McMillan wouldn’t say afterward whether he’d stick with the lineup.

“I thought tonight we did some good things. We may have to make some adjustments,” he said. “I thought that small unit when Nicolas came into the game, we were aggressive. Guys just have to be ready to play.”

Batum said the last time he came off the bench, he was mad. Against the Thunder, he was resolved.

“I don’t think about myself; I think about the team,” he said. “I want to win.”

Oklahoma City led 30-20 at the break. James Harden had 17 points for the Thunder.

Aldridge’s dunk and Wesley Matthews’ 3-pointer narrowed it to 65-64, but Matthews missed a layup that would have put Portland in front.

Matthews redeemed himself by making a pair of free throws, and Aldridge made a turnaround jumper that gave the Blazers a 68-65 lead.

Portland went up 72-65 after Aldridge made another jumper to cap a 15-0 run. The Thunder were hampered because Perkins was on the bench after four fouls.

Wallace opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer to give the Blazers a 81-70 lead.

“It was tough. I felt like our offense and defense flip-flopped in the second half,” Durant said. “We were on fire in the first, and our defense wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be. In the second half we couldn’t hit a shot, and our defense was pretty good, I think. But you’re going to have nights like that.”

Game notes
Dan Aykroyd attended the game, sitting next to team owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. … Oklahoma City went 14-2 in March, the best month in franchise history. … Aldridge has been named the Northwest Division winner and a finalist for this year’s NBA Sportsmanship Award. … The loss also snapped a five-game winning streak on the road for the Thunder. … The Blazers had a season-low five turnovers. … Aldridge has 12 games this season with 30 or more points.

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