OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City plays on most holidays. From Christmas to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Thunder usually find themselves with a seat at the table.
No holiday has been more favorable to the Thunder than New Year’s Eve. They have played on Dec. 31 every year since moving to Oklahoma City and took an unblemished 5-0 record into this season.
However, Portland didn’t care about any of that. Riding a two-game losing streak, all the Trail Blazers wanted was a win to close out 2013 and straighten themselves out. And that’s what they did as they knocked off the Thunder 98-94 Tuesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“They made shots and they played defense,” Thunder forward Kevin Durant said. “We had some tough breaks. We had some nice looks and didn’t make them. They beat us. We’re not going to make any excuses for it. Just have to get better from it.”
With 2:34 left in the game, Reggie Jackson hit one of two free throws to cut the Thunder’s deficit to 90-89. However, Portland’s Wesley Matthews answered with a tough layup over Serge Ibaka to push the lead back to three.
Ibaka subsequently was fouled and split a pair of free throws to cut the lead to two.
Center Robin Lopez put Portland up by four with 59 seconds left. Once again, Jackson went to the line and hit one of two, and the Blazers’ lead was down to three. Oklahoma City guard Thabo Sefolosha made two foul shots, pulling the Thunder within 94-93 with 23.6 to go.
Portland’s Mo Williams was fouled and missed both attempts, but Ibaka was unable to come up with the rebound and the Blazers gained control.
“I think that was a heck of a game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “That was like playoff-intensity game in December.”