By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — Last year Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant introduced a campaign that stated “KD is not nice.” For much of this season, that has not resurfaced, despite the audacious numbers he has been putting up.
However, facing nemesis Portland, Durant needed that attitude down the stretch in order to lead the Thunder to a 105-97 victory over the Trailblazers Tuesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Durant scored 46 points on 17-for-25 shooting, including hitting six of his seven 3-point attempts as he posted his eighth straight game with at least 30 points.
“He is the best player in the world right now,” Portland’s Nicolas Batum said of Durant. “What can you say about him. He is the MVP. He is the MVP. I have been six years in the league, and I’ve never seen something like that.”
Despite terrible free throw shooting in the fourth quarter, the Thunder only trailed 95-92 with three minutes left in the game. But Durant quickly changed that when he hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key. As he headed downcourt, he was barking at the Blazers bench and thumping his chest.
Durant had received a technical foul minutes before and it may have been the kickstart he needed.
“It was a physical basketball game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Neither team was getting to the free throw line or getting fouls called. Kevin is an aggressive player. I think that got our crowd fired up.”
After forcing the Blazers into a turnover, guard Reggie Jackson hit a teardrop in the lane to put Oklahoma City up by two. After another empty Portland possession, it was center Kendrick Perkins hitting a baseline jumper to give the Thunder a 99-95 advantage.
Yet, it was Durant who shut the game down when he drained back-to-back 3-pointers in Batum’s face to put the contest away. He finished with 14 in the period.
“I told the team after Perk hit that shot that I saw something at the top of they key,” Durant said. “Batum is a long defender, but he was giving me some space. I just needed a little bit of space to get my shot off. I felt good from the 3-point line all game.”
Along with his 46 points, Durant added five rebounds and four assists. Jackson posted 15 points and seven rebounds while guard Derek Fisher came off the bench to score 10 points.
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge paced Portland with 29 points and 16 rebounds. Guard Wesley Matthews added 21 points on 7-for-15 shooting.
With the win, the Thunder (32-10) took the lead in the Northwest Division from the Blazers (32-10).
Despite 15 first-quarter points from Durant, the Blazers held a 27-21 advantage heading into the second period.
Ibaka and Jackson started to knock down shots in the second quarter to close the gap on Portland. But it was guard Thabo Sefolosha who hit a jumper with 8.3 seconds left to give Oklahoma City its first lead of the contest.
However, guard Damian Lillard took it right back when he drove the court and made a layup to close out the first half with the Blazers leading 52-51.
Portland maintained the lead and control of the contest until Durant decided it was time to take over. Portland had no answers at that point.
“I am just having fun out there,” Durant said. “I am blessed to play this game. So every moment I am on this court, it’s fun for me, no matter how the game is going. You go to the bench and see your teammates are actually happy for you. All I could do is smile ’cause I know they are genuinely happy for me.”
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