OKLAHOMA CITY —
The Thunder outscored the Blazers 18-11 the rest of the period and took a 24-19 lead into the second quarter.
Portland kept grinding and stormed back into the contest behind J.J. Hickson, Batum and Lillard. The trio took turns coming up with baskets and kept the Oklahoma City’s defense off balance.
The Blazers tied the game in the final minute of the second quarter. They then forced Durant into a missed shot with five seconds on the clock. Portland got the rebound and threw an outlet pass to Hickson, who was able to hit an off-the-glass bank shot as the clock expired. Portland led 47-45 going into halftime.
With Aldridge struggling to find his shot, Oklahoma City focused its defense on Lillard. With Westbrook guarding him, they kept the rookie point guard from getting into the paint. This took away his playmaking opportunities and regulated him to throwing up nothing but 3-pointers.
“They had two guys that patrol the paint and that are physical,” Portland’s Wesley Matthews said. “And they get away with being physical. I guess that is one of the perks of being one of the better teams in the league.”
Yet, Portland still found a way to score and tied the game at 63-63, but the Thunder went on a 12-5 run to end the third quarter leading 75-68.
“Our defense was good,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We didn’t give up anything easy. We didn’t give up a lot of points on second chance points.”
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