Blazers end 2013 with win against Thunder
Updated On: Jan 01 2014 12:25:38 AM CST
Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts isn't into sending messages. With his team riding a two game losing streak, all he cared about was getting a victory to close out 2013.
Facing one of the top teams in the NBA, the Blazers were able to do both when they defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-94 on Tuesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
"Obviously, that was a terrific win," Stotts said. "To get a game like this on the road during a back-to-back against the best team in the league right now. It's a win to be proud of."
The Blazers (25-7) not only ended a two-game slide, they handed Oklahoma City (25-6) its first New Year's Eve loss in six years.
"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, guard Reggie Jackson hit one of two free throws to cut the Thunder's deficit to 90-89. However, Portland guard Wesley Matthews answered with a tough layup over Thunder forward Serge Ibaka to push lead back to three.
Ibaka subsequently was fouled and split a pair of free throws to cut 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 guard Mo Williams was fouled and missed both attempts, but Ibaka was unable to come up with the rebound and the Blazers gained control.
This time Matthews went to the foul line and sank both attempts to give the Blazers a 96-93 advantage with 9.2 second left.
Thunder forward Kevin Durant was fouled before getting off a 3-pointer. He hit his first but missed the second free throw, got the rebound and had a chance to tie the game with a 10-foot jumper. However, it was bounced off the front of the rim, and Portland grabbed the rebound to seal the game.
"My teammates told me if somebody had been contesting it, I would probably have hit that shot, " Durant said. "I wish I could replay that. I'm sure it's going to replay back in my mind for the rest of the night. I wish I could have hit it for my team. We'd be in overtime right now."
Durant led all scorers with 37 points on 12-of-26 shooting. However, he was held to one point in the fourth quarter. Much of the credit is due to forward Nicolas Batum, who shadowed the league's leading scorer the entire night.
"I just tried to be more aggressive on him," Batum said. "Tried to deny him to get the ball because he's the best scorer in the league right now, for the last couple of years and the next couple of years."
Durant also pulled down 14 rebounds. Ibaka added 17 points, while Jackson had 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Guard Damian Lillard scored 21 points and handed out 11 assists for the Blazers. Matthews added 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, and Batum posted 15 points.
"I think we did a good job of just working our (butts) off down the stretch," Lopez said. "Can really put it any other way."
NOTES: Portland coach Terry Stotts is not concerned that all of his starters are averaging more than 30 minutes a game. "I think the fact that all five starters have been healthy and haven't missed a game and have been able to start every game is part of that," Stotts said. "I don't think any of them are playing outrageous minutes." ... While Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks believes Damian Lillard is All-Star worthy, he isn't sure the Portland guard will make the All-Star game. "He is definitely in the category of all-star," Brooks said. "There are a lot of guards in the West. There are going to be four that are deserving but are not going to get it." ... Entering the game, Oklahoma City led the NBA in blocks at 6.3 per game. Thunder F Serge Ibaka was third in the league at 2.33 per game.
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