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Balanced Blazers Ruin Westbrook's Career Night with Third Straight Win

by Cody Sharrett

NBA scoring leader Russell Westbrook scored a career-high 58 points, but much like his 45-point performance five days ago, it was a balanced attack led by Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Allen Crabbe that was victorious as the Portland Trail Blazers (27-35) beat the Oklahoma City Thunder (35-29), 126-121, Tuesday night in front of 18,203 fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.

"I think probably the most satisfying thing is that we got contributions from so many players, everybody that played," Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts praised his players. "Up and down the roster, everybody that got in the game contributed in some way whether it was rebounding, passing, scoring, defending. It was a really good team win."

A hot shooting start that saw the Thunder go 15-of-20 from the field begin the game with a 40-29 advantage after the first quarter. But the Blazers, sparked by efforts off the bench from Allen Crabbe, Al-Farouq Aminu and Meyers Leonard sparked Portland to a 14-2 run in the opening minutes of the second quarter mostly with Westbrook on the Oklahoma City bench. The visitors eventually held a 53-52 lead with 7:08 left in the first half. But the NBA’s leading scorer would return to the floor to score 16 of his 28 first-half points to see Oklahoma City on top going into halftime, 67-61.

The Blazers would come out of the break hot as Lillard, Crabbe and Leonard combined for 25 of the Portland’s 38 points in the third quarter, despite another double-digit period from Westbrook. The visitors entered the fourth quarter with a 99-92 lead behind a 59% shooting performance in the third. 

"From top to bottom, guys contributed on both ends of the floor," Leonard told media. "We just continued to battle and did our best to slow Russ down. Obviously, a guy scores 58 and you're looking up like 'Wow,' but I think we did a good job of keeping other guys in check."

In the final quarter, the Blazers extended their lead to 12, their largest of the evening with Westbrook resting in the early minutes. The Thunder’s lone All-Star returned to the court to bring the game to a tie at 114 with just over two minutes to play. 

From there, the game came down to a possession-by-possession chess match. After being whistled for his fifth foul on a charge two possessions before, Jusuf Nurkić scored back-to-back buckets in the final minute to put the Blazers up four. After three-straight missed Thunder field goals, Victor Oladipo answered Nurkić’s efforts at the other end by drilling a three to make it 120-119 Portland advantage. The Thunder then fouled CJ McCollum, who’s made free throws gave the Blazers a three-point lead with 15.2 seconds to play. Westbrook’s deep three-point attempt was off the mark, leaving Nurkić to put the Blazers up five at the line following the foul. Though Westbrook drove in for an easy layup to bring the Thunder within three, Lillard’s made free throws in the final second sealed the Blazers’ third straight win and a fourth victory in six games since the All-Star break. 

"This was a game we needed to win," McCollum said after the game. "Obviously, each game is magnified getting closer down the stretch, and also for the tie-breaker purposes, we wanted to make sure we took care of them."

Crabbe led the Blazers with 23 points off the bench, while Lillard added 22 points and eight assists. CJ McCollum scored 21 points in the win, scoring eight in the final period. Nurkić recorded his fourth consecutive game of 15-plus points, finishing with 17 points and eight rebounds. Leonard and Aminu finished with 12 points each off the bench. 

Westbrook led all scorers with a career-high 58 points to go with nine assists. Oladipo and Enes Kanter were the only other players in double figures, scoring 16 and 11 points, respectively. 

The Blazers return home to host the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday at Moda Center. Oklahoma City welcomes the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday evening.