Durant shoots Thunder past Blazers
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Portland Trail Blazers braced themselves for a late onslaught from Kevin Durant. They still failed to stop him.
The 6-foot-9 forward scored 11 of his 46 points in the final 3:23 to help the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Trail Blazers 105-97 on Tuesday night.
"When the basket is an ocean, you can't really do much about it," Portland guard Wesley Matthews said. "He's been on a roll."
Durant has scored at least 30 points for eight consecutive games, the longest such streak of his career. He made 17 of 25 field goals, including 6 of 7 3-pointers.
"He did what he's been doing the last two weeks," Portland guard Damian Lillard said. "You look up, he's hitting 50 and 45 and 50 again and 40 and up. We knew coming in that he's been shooting the ball well."
Reggie Jackson added 15 points for Oklahoma City (32-10), which took a one-game lead over Portland in the Northwest Division. Oklahoma City improved to 9-5 since point guard Russell Westbrook was taken out of the lineup after having surgery on his right knee.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 29 points and 16 rebounds, but he went 1-for-8 from the field in the fourth quarter. Durant said Aldridge's late struggles might have been a combination good defense by Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka and the Trail Blazers being worn out from their loss to Houston the night before.
"Perk and Serge did a great job early on contesting LaMarcus' jump shot, but he's a great player and he was knocking them down," Durant said. "In the fourth quarter, of course, after playing last night, he's a little tired. We forced him all the way out close to the 3-point line and made him shoot some tough ones and we were able to rebound and hit shots on the other end."
Matthews added 21 points for Portland (31-11), which lost its last two games of a four-game road trip.
"Pissed," Matthews said. "We're not happy. Last year we were happy coming off a road trip at .500. We're not that team any more. We didn't come out with the right energy and the right mentality against Houston and they were ready for us. We came out with the right mentality early in this game and KD had a hell of a fourth quarter, so it's bitter."
Oklahoma City held Lillard to 14 points, well below his average of 21.4 points per game.
Portland led 93-90 when Durant was called for an offensive foul. Durant was unhappy after the call, and after Perkins was called for a foul, Durant, still frustrated, hit the scorer's table and was issued a technical foul. Portland made two of the three free throws to go up by five. A fired-up Durant responded with a layup, then a 3-pointer to tie the score with 2:52 remaining.
"It was really a stupid, stupid reaction by me," Durant said. "I could have hurt my team really badly. I was just more frustrated with myself, turning the ball over. I can't hurt my team like that. This time, it went in our direction. Next time, I've got to be smarter."
Durant seemed to reach another gear after the technical, though. He hit a 3 with 48 seconds left to give the Thunder a 102-95 lead, then another with 26.8 seconds remaining to ice the game.
Portland led 48-40 late in the second quarter before Durant sparked a rally with a 3-pointer. The Thunder took the lead with 8.3 seconds left in the first half on a jumper by Thabo Sefolosha, but Lillard responded with a layup with 0.2 seconds left to give the Trail Blazers a 52-51 lead at the break. Portland shot 57 percent in the first half. Durant scored 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting in the first half, but his teammates shot 13 for 38.
Durant's jumper early in the second half finally gave the Thunder the lead, but the Trail Blazers handled the surge. A 3-pointer by Nicolas Batum and a bucket from Aldridge gave Portland a 67-62 lead and caused Oklahoma City to call a timeout.
The Trail Blazers extended their lead to 75-66, but again, the Thunder closed out a quarter strong. Oklahoma City held Portland scoreless for the last 2:35 of the period. Durant hit a 3-pointer to close the quarter and give the Thunder a 77-75 lead.
Portland made just one field goal in the final 3:45.
"Total team effort," Durant said. "We didn't get discouraged after they hit tough shots and we missed shots, and we got a good win."
The Thunder play at San Antonio tonight with the top record in the Western Conference on the line.
"We know how tough it is to win there," Durant said. "We know how tough that team is. You've just got to come prepared and with a lot of energy. I think our group is ready to come out there and play our game, and we'll see what happens."