Basketball

Published: Wednesday January 1, 2014 MYT 7:31:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday January 1, 2014 MYT 7:39:10 PM

Aldridge and Lillard power Portland to OKC victory

Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge (centre) shoots between two Oklahoma City Thunder players in their NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, on Dec 31. Portland won 98-94.- AP

Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge (centre) shoots between two Oklahoma City Thunder players in their NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, on Dec 31. Portland won 98-94.- AP

OKLAHOMA CITY (AFP): LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds while Damian Lillard added 21 points and 11 assists to power Portland over Oklahoma City 98-94 in a showdown of NBA powers Tuesday.

Bouncing back after back-to-back losses, the Trail Blazers beat the Thunder for the second time in as many meetings this season, improving to 25-7.

"We had two tough losses. The guys could have just layed down tonight but we kept fighting," Aldridge said.

"We worked hard all through training camp for these moments. We're just a better team this year."

Oklahoma City fell to 25-6, still the best record in the Western Conference just ahead of Portland, but the loss left Indiana with the NBA's best record at 25-5.

NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant scored a game-high 37 points, including 22 in the first half on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor, and grabbed 14 rebounds and Spain's Serge Ibaka added 17 points.

But neither of them hit a shot from the floor in the fourth quarter when the Trail Blazers rallied to win.

"In the first half we couldn't stop him but we just kept going at it," Aldridge said of Durant.

"We felt like if we just stayed the course those guys would start missing shots and our offense would come on."

Aldridge said he was able to score despite the Thunder getting physical in defending against him.

"That might have worked six years ago but now I'm much older, much stronger," Aldridge said. "I can take it."

The Thunder, who led by as many as 16 points in the second half but suffered their biggest blown lead of the season, missed nine shots in a row in the fourth quarter during a 14-2 Portland run.

The Trail Blazers grabbed their first lead of the second half at 87-86 on two LaMarcus Aldridge free throws that capped that spurt.

Reggie Jackson lofted in a basket from the paint but Frenchman Nicolas Batum sank a 3-pointer for Portland to give the Trail Blazers a 90-88 lead.

Wesley Matthews scored for Portland to offset 1-of-2 free throw efforts by Jackson and Ibaka. Then Robin Lopez added two free throws for the Trail Blazers for a 94-90 edge with just under one minute remaining.

Oklahoma City, the NBA's most accurate free throw shooting squad, missed four key free throws in the final minutes.

The Thunder's Thabo Sefolosha made two free throws with 23.6 seconds remaining to pull the hosts within 94-93.

Portland's Mo Williams missed two free throws with 15.8 seconds remaining but Lopez grabbed the rebound for the Trail Blazers to set up two Matthews free throws that gave Portland a 96-93 edge with 9.2 seconds remaining.

Batum fouled Durant and Durant made his first free throw but missed the second. Durant got the rebound but missed what would have been a tying jump shot and Portland's Lillard sank two free throws for the final margin with 2.1 seconds remaining.

Matthews scored 16 points, Batum finished with 15 and Lopez had 12 for the Trail Blazers.

A 12-0 run in the second quarter helped the Thunder to a 54-42 half-time lead as Oklahoma City kept Portland to 37 percent first-half shooting, including 3-of-19 from 3-point range for the NBA's top-shooting squad from beyond the arc.

But Batum scored his first eight points in the third quarter as the Trail Blazers, who made only one second-half turnover, pulled within 78-71 entering the fourth quarter.

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