Thunder Surge In Second Half To Beat Blazers

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

PORTLAND -- The Portland Trail Blazers started off a five-game homestand with a 111-109 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 at the Moda Center.

“Disappointing, kind of a crazy game,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I thought we had a good flow, good momentum for most of the game. Seems like we had little stretches where the turnovers weren’t bad, but we had them in bunches. Their offensive rebounds were pretty much under control, but they got them in bunches. Those runs, I thought, effected us and allowed them to have the lead.”

Portland is now 22-17 overall and 14-7 at home this season. The Trail Blazers had won their both their last six games versus the Thunder and their last eight at home to the Northwest Division rival before Friday night’s loss.

After the first half of Friday night’s contest, it looked as though the Trail Blazers had a great chance to extend their streak against the Thunder behind strong performances from Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic. Lillard put up 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field while handing out five assists in 17 first-half minutes, while Nurkić followed up his historic performance two nights before in Sacramento with 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting, four rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block in 15 minutes.

Add in Jake Layman, playing meaningful minutes for the fist time in over two weeks, going 4-of-5 from the field for nine points in seven minutes, and Portland took a 62-57 lead into the intermission.

But the fact that the Trail Blazers played a great first half, with the team shooting 52 percent from the field and only turning the ball over six times for five Oklahoma City points, and only lead by five at the half was a sign of things to come in the second half. So too was Thunder forward Paul George going for 21 points in the first half.

Oklahoma City chipped away at the lead for the majority of the third, finally  taking their first lead since early in the first quarter at 86-85 on a Paul George three with 1:51 to play in the quarter. Portland would take the lead back, but Oklahoma City finished the quarter on a 10-2 run, helped along by back-to-back turnovers from Damian Lillard, to take a 93-87 lead into the fourth quarter.

After trading baskets for the first half of the fourth, the Thunder took their largest lead of the night at at 107-97 after a Westbrook 18-footer with 4:13 to play in regulation. The Trail Blazers had one last push left, going on a 10-2 run, with all of those points coming from the free throw line, to cut the Thunder lead to 109-107 with 42.8 seconds to play.

Westbrook missing a mid-range jumper on the ensuing possession, with Al-Farouq Aminu grabbing the rebound and giving the Trail Blazers a chance to tie or take the league with just over 22 seconds to play. Aminu would get another rebound, this one on the offensive end, after Lillard missed a runner with 11.3 seconds to play, to give CJ McCollum a chance to send the game to overtime. But McCollum’s long two pointer missed short and Oklahoma City corralled the rebound with 4.3 seconds to play.

“It was a late run," said Lillard. "We needed to probably make every shot and get every stop. Those are tough situations to come back from and we just came up short. We had plenty of opportunity, I missed one of my last of those three free throws. We still had another chance, I came down and missed a floater off the glass. With everything that happened and how hard we made it for ourselves, we still had an opportunity at the end of the game, just didn’t come up on the right side of it."

All that was left was for George to make two free throws to officially put the game away, which he did for his 36th and 37th points of the night.

"I liked the way we came back," said Stotts. "We had two good looks to tie the game late. We didn’t make enough plays. I thought we could have made a few more plays that we didn’t make."

TOP PERFORMERS

Jusuf Nurkic finished with 22 points (9-14 FG, 4-6 FT), eight rebounds, three steals and one block. It was the fourth time in the last five games that he has scored 20-plus points.

Damian Lillard led Portland with 23 points (7-19 FG, 1-8 3-PT, 8-9 FT) to go with eight assists and two steals. He has scored 20-plus points in six of the last seven games.

Al-Farouq Aminu had his sixth double-double of the season, recording 16 points (6-11 FG, 2-5 3-PT, 2-2 FT) and 15 rebounds to go with two assists. It was the sixth time in his career that Aminu has had at least 16 points and 15 rebounds in a game.

Jake Layman led the Portland bench with 11 points (5-7 FG, 1-2 3-PT) to go with one re-bound in 12 minutes. It was the fourth time this season he has scored in double figures. CJ McCollum finished with 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting (2-6 3-PT) to go with two re-bounds and five assists.

Paul George scored a game-high 37 points (10-23 FG, 5-9 3-PT, 12-14 FT) to go with eight rebounds, two assists and one steal. George has scored 30-plus points in six of his last eight games. Russell Westbrook recorded 31 points (13-28 FG, 0-2 3-PT, 5-6 FT), nine rebounds, seven assists and one steal. He scored 14 points (5-7 FG, 4-4 FT) in the third quarter.

LISTEN UP

NOTABLE

• The Trail Blazers have not won a game this season in which they entered the fourth quarter trailing, as they did Friday night.

• The Trail Blazers recorded 30 assists on their 41 made field goals, marking their season high in assists (29, twice). The Thunder had 18 assists on 40 field goals.• Portland outscored the Thunder in the paint, 54-46.

• The Trail Blazers bench outscored the Thunder reserves, 33-26.

• Portland outrebounded Oklahoma City, 50-49.

• Both teams had 11 offensive rebounds. The Thunder had 12 second chance points while Portland recorded 10 second chance points.

• The Thunder connected on 23-of-26 field goal attempts (88.5%) while Portland shot 18-of-21 from the free throw line (85.7%).

QUOTABLE

"It’s always a fight to the end, so we know it’s going to be that type of game. We didn’t play great, and the last few seconds we still had a shot, we just didn’t capitalize.” — Damian Lillard

NEXT UP

The Trail Blazers host the Houston Rockets for the first and only time this season in the second game of yet another all-home back-to-back Saturday night at the Moda Center.

“They’re playing really well. James [Harden] is playing at an all-time, historic level. It’s a challenge that we’re going to have to accept. We’ve won one on their floor, they beat us the last time we played them and tomorrow we’re going to have to come out and take the challenge. We dropped one tonight so tomorrow is big for us.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.