LIVE at the Moda Center as your Portland Trail Blazers host some still-bitter Seattle resident's Oklahoma City Thunder.
And while it's true that our fair city's Arena Football team is (rather inexplicably) named after that oh-so-rare occurrence of clouds crashing into each other, the only Thunder that matters to Portland is sporting visiting unis tonight.
The Blazers meet the FormerSonics for the fourth and final time this season, and come in looking for a season-series win with a side of momentum before hitting LA tomorrow and rolling into the All-Star break. As usual, expect LaMarcus Aldridge to be big tonight—the Blazer (for life!?) has averaged 30 points and 14 rebounds against Oklahoma City this year. He's also riding a hot hand, having poured in 26 points on Saturday at Minnesota on 12 of 16 shooting. Like I said, big.
OKC, meanwhile, has the best record in the Western Conference behind the silly play of Kevin (sigh) Durant, who leads the league in scoring and has pretty much torched the Association since Thunder guard Russell Westbrook went down with a knee injury on Christmas day—some 25 games ago. Durant is averaging better than 31 points per game this season, but he's been especially excellent against Rip City (can't imagine why...), averaging nearly 39 this year vs. Portland.
We've got the best of the Northwest (Division)! So click past that jump and follow along, as I deftly describe that action, boss—on and off the floor.
Oklahoma City (41-12, 1st in West)—Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefoloshka on guard. Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka up front. Kendrick Perkins at center. On the bench: Perry Collins, Nick Collison, Derek Fisher, Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Hasheem Thabeet.
Portland (36-15, 3rd in West)—Damian Lillard and Wes Matthews on guard. Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge up front. Robin Lopez at center. On the bench: Dorell Wright, CJ McCollum, Will Barton, Meyers Leonard, Earl Watson, Victor Claver, Joel Freeland, Allen Crabbe, Thomas Robinson.
Backup point guard Mo Williams will not suit up for Portland tonight—he's out of town tending to a sick family member. Enter McCollum, who played a season-high 28 minutes on Saturday and scored a career-best 19 points.
OKC has won 13 of its 15 last games, while Portland is coming off a 2-2 road trip that may or may not have included a loss to the Wizards.
Blazers GM Neil Olshey presents Aldridge and Lillard with framed All-Star jerseys prior to the game. Speaking of jerseys, OKC is wearing what appears to be "throwback" jerseys of some sort. OH MY GOD THEY SHOULD'VE WORN SONICS JERSEYS—that'd be some championship-level trollin'.
11:47—OKC wins the tip and Durant misses his first shot. Yeah, you may still wanna guard that guy.
11:00—Matthews with a jumper to give Portland the early 2-0 lead.
10:05—Aldridge backs down Perkins and banks one in to give Portland a 4-2 lead. All-Stardridge will take that all day, as OKC is slow to double-team.
6:45—Lillard with a 3 from the elbow on a dish from Aldridge, and Portland has a 13-6 lead. On th eother end, Perkins with a foul to give it right back to Portland. Late-arriving crowd (slush traffic?) is INTO IT.
6:11—Timeout on the floor, with Portland up 16-6. One guy has scored all six of OKC's points—any guesses?
4:03—Sefolosha gets ahead of the break and gets a shooting foul. OKC coach Scotty Brooks yells at the ref, presumably looking for a goaltending call, and picks up a technical foul. Sefolosha hits a pair of free throws and Portland leads 19-8.
3:36—Durant is called for an offensive foul, then on the other end, a technical foul. He's still jawing at the ref while Lillard drains a free throw to give Portland a 20-8 lead. THEN BEFORE WE CAN INBOUND, the Thunder get a delay-of-game warning.
2:55—Portland takes a full timeout, up 20-11. OKC shooting just 28% from the field. Portland firing at a 41% clip so far.
1:45—Freeland goes down awkwardly and grabs his right knee right away. He signals to the bench and is now being carried off. Not a good sign for Freeland, or Portland's depth down low.
0:51.5—Durant slithers into the lane, gets past two defenders and pops in a little baseline jumper for his 12th point of the night. He's carrying the Thunder so far.
0:28—McCollum answers with a 3. Boom.
0:00—After Durant wove his way through the defense after a steal only to be dispossessed at the free-throw line, Leonard nearly heaved in a 3/4-court shot before the final buzzer. Durant and Brooks not happy about the no-call, but the Thunder have managed to sneak back into this one. Still, Portland leads 26-19 behind eight points from Aldridge.
11:18—Matthews goes baseline and hits a reverse layin, +1. He converts the free throw and Portland leads 28-21.
10:03—Derek Fisher on the floor for OKC. He's been in the league for 17 years and might be a vampire.
9:06—McCollum hits another 3—his third—and Portland goes up 34-28. Meanwhile, OKC's offense has been just fine with Durant on the bench: Lamb has 8 straight points for the Thunder.
8:29—Lamb again, dunking one home off a dish from Fisher. The Blazers probably would've liked to extend their lead with Durant on the bench, but Lamb had other ideas. Portland up 34-32, but OKC now shooting 50% from the field.
7:21—Lillard fakes a 3 and goes to the hoop for the layup +1. He rims in the free throw to put Portland up 39-34.
5:53—Timeout on the floor and we have a one-point game. Durant is back on the floor and playing with some attitude. Not a good sign if you're pulling for the home team.
4:57—The Thunder are on a 7-0 run and have their first lead of the night after Lamb nails a 3. OKC up 41-39 and Lamb is having himself a bit of a game. The second-year guard out of UConn has 13 points already.
4:00—Lopez follows a Lillard miss with a layup to tie it up at 41.
3:37—On the other end, Durant hits a rainbow jumper on the baseline. Filthy.
1:58—Batum drains a 3 off a McCollum dish and Portland leads 48-43. Blazers on a 9-2 run and the crowd is back into it.
0:28.8—McCollum draws a foul under the basket and hits both free throws to give Portland a 53-45 lead. McCollum with 13 points in the half—look out, career high.
HALFTIME: Portland finishes strong to take a 55-45 lead. On Portland's final possession, Lillard bled some clock before dribbling past Jackson and going to the hoop for a layup. He has 13 points along with McCollum to lead the Blazers, while Aldridge has 10.
OKC is led by 18 points from Durant and 11 points from Lamb.
11:15—Durant hits a pair of free throws for the first points of the half and his 20th point of the night. Blazers up 55-47.
10:55—Durant playing angry. He drives the lane and throws down an emphatic one-handed jam. Yeah, he's good.
9:57—And now Durant hits a 3. He has 25 and OKC Is back within five.
9:02—Lillard with a fadeaway jumper off an inbounds pass and Portland goes up 61-55.
7:53—Lillard with a drive and dish to Lopez, who jams it two-handed. Blazers lead by eight and Lillard has six assists.
5:50—Timeout on the floor and OKC is hanging tough. Blazers lead 66-63 and have five players in double-figures. But Durant has 27 and is playing with a lottery-ball-sized chip on his shoulder.
5:29—Leonard follows an Aldridge miss with a dunk(!) and the Blazers are up five. MEYERS LEONARD, Y'ALL!
3:53—Batum answers a Durant jumper with a 3-pointer from the wing. Blazers up four and the pace has picked up.
3:06—Durant picks up his fourth foul and he's jawing all the way to the bench. Coaches and teammates are holding him back before Batum hits a free throw. We'll have the other after a Thunder timeout.
2:20—Ibaka with a 20-foot jumper to give the Thunder a 76-75 lead. They erase the Portland lead with Durant on the bench.
0:32—Batum drills a 3 after Portland gets a second chance on a Leonard miss. But on the other end, Jackson scores his 13th point of the quarter(!) to tie the game at 80.
0:00—We're tied at 80 and seemingly due for a wild fourth quarter.
FOURTH QUARTER Here we go...Thunder will start with it.
10:53—Blazers strike first with a Robinson jumper. Durant still on the bench.
10:14—Lopez hits a jumper on the baseline. Blazers up 84-80 and Durant will check in on the next whistle.
9:48—Durant back in and Blazers have it after OKC lost a rebound out of bounds.
8:52—Blazers with a turnover—their 13th—and Portland leads 84-80 with a timeout on the floor. All five Blazer starters are in double-figures and Lopez has 12 rebounds.
7:43—Fisher with a 3 from the top of the key to pull OKC within a bucket.
7:29—Blazers with a turnover and Lamb takes it the basket and scores. Blazers coach Terry Stotts is arguing something and picks up a technical foul. Durant hits that free throw and Lamb converts his, and all the sudden, OKC leads 87-84. Huge swing there.
6:44—Batum with a floater in the lane, +1. Big-time shot there. Batum converts and we're tied at 87.
5:43—McCollum drives the baseline and scores to give Portland an 89-87 lead. Here we go...
3:44—Aldridge hits a pair of free throws (his first two points of the half) to give Portland a 91-89 lead. LA with 12 points and 10 boards.
2:38—Timeout on the floor and we're tied at 91. Durant has 36 points.
2:26—Ibaka called for his fifth foul as Matthews drives the lane and attempts to dunk. Before he can even shoot, though, OKC is called for a second delay of game. Lillard hits the free tech throw and Matthews hits one of two, and Portland leads 93-91.
1:37—Lamb with a HUGE 3-pointer from the corner to give OKC the 96-95 lead.
1:10—Aldridge misses from the elbow and OKC gets it back. Tough miss for LA, who's without a field goal this half.
1:04—Timeout on the floor, OKC up 96-95. Crowd on its feet.
0:13.0—After misses on both ends, Blazers end up with it for seemingly the final possession. Lillard drives the lane and loses it out of bounds. OKC ball is the call on the floor, but it's being reviewed. Replay pretty clearly shows Jackson got a hand on it, and the arena emcee is rocking Ages And Ages "Do the Right Thing" over the PA. Awesome. CALL ON THE FLOOR STANDS, OKC BALL.
0:12.3—Inbounds pass tipped back over the line and Batum claims it went off Durant. The refs will look at the replay once more. DO THE RIGHT THING! It looks like Durant might have touched it, but the video evidence is hardly conclusive. Crowd knows what it wants...we'll see. BLAZERS BALL! Portland will call a timeout to draw something up. They're down 96-95 but will have the last shot at securing this season series.
0:00.6—Aldridge had a look but missed a jumper from the elbow, which I must point out is one of his favorite spots on the floor. Thunder rebound and McCollum fouls Jackson. Not over yet, but pretty damn close. Jackson hits 'em both to give OKC a 98-95 lead. Blazers' only hope is a catch-and-shoot here.
FINAL: Oklahoma City wins, 98-95. Lillard gets the inbound pass and tosses a prayer from the corner, but it's well off.
Tough loss for Portland, but what a game between two conference heavyweights. Back and forth all night and seemingly destined for a close finish. Who wouldn't like to see these two meet up for a seven-game series?
Some final stats: Durant led the world with 36 points, 10 rebounds. He was followed by game-winner Lamb, who poured in 19, and Jackson, who finished with 17—all in the second half.
Portland was paced by 18 points from Batum, 17 and 14 from Lopez, 16 points from Lillard, 15 from McCollum and 12 points, 12 boards from Aldridge on an off night (did I jinx him?). Matthews added 11, which makes six Blazers in double figures.
The Blazers head to Los Angeles to meet the Clippers tomorrow night, then have a week "off" (outside of All-Stars Aldridge and Lillard, of course) before returning to action on Feb. 19 at home against the Spurs. See you then!