Trail Blazers vs Thunder Sunday, 01/13/13 AT 06:00PM

Aldridge's Season-High 33 Not Enough Against Thunder

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0


    The Portland Trail Blazers (20-17) found themselves in another dog fight with tonight but eventually fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder (29-8) 87-83. LaMarcus Aldridge had his best game of the year with 33 points (15-26 FG) and 11 rebounds. Portland was down by 10 with 3:33 left and cut it down to one point, but unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, the bounces didn't go their way, snapping their nine-game home winning streak.

    Neither the Trail Blazers or the Thunder, who had come in with the NBA's best offense, could really get into a groove, save for each team's best player. LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant (33 points) carried their respective teams on the offensive end, with each scoring over 30 points. Tonight's game was about each team's "alpha dog," and each put on quite an offensive performance. From the first quarter until the end of the game, each player took turns putting their respective teams on their back. It was a fun back and forth, even if neither player was guarding each other.

    The show from Aldridge and Durant was certainly fun to watch, but it seemed like few others were joining the party. The game lacked rhythm, which wasn't such a bad thing for the Trail Blazers. They've struggled the last three games shooting the ball and they were facing the best offense (105.7 per game, 1st in efficiency) in the NBA, holding them to 87 points. However, Portland shot under 40 percent for the third consecutive game.

    "It was just a rough night for us as a team offensively," said Damian Lillard who had a rough three-for-14 shooting night following his career-high 37 point performance. "LA really had it going, carried us offensively. Nic got it going but I think outside of those two, I think we struggled."

    Lillard is right. Even Batum, who scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds in addition to having to guard Kevin Durant all game only shot 35 percent. Other than Aldridge, unfortunately nobody for Portland could get it going. Outside of Aldridge, Portland shot 16 of 60 (26.6 percent), and they shot under 50 percent for the game.

    "We've had some shots that we can make," said Stotts about the teams offensive woes as of late. "We shoot under 50% in the paint-we're 15 for 36 in the paint, so generally people say we take too many jump shots but if we're not shooting well in the paint, it makes it tough. Shooting percentages even themselves out but I'll give credit to the defense in the last three games as well."

    Portland was still somehow surviving. Russell Westbrook had one of those nights he seems to have where he shot poorly, but just kept shooting, going five for 21 from the field. Westbrook's off night helped Portland stay in the game.

    Portland kept clawing and seemed like they never could get the game within a possession. A Westbrook three-pointer with 3:35 left put Oklahoma City up by 10 and would have been a dagger for most teams. Of course, we should know by now that the Trail Blazers are not most teams and they made it a game anyway, fighting until the bitter end.

    They went back to their All-Star and Aldridge kept delivering down the stretch and Portland got the stops they needed too. Aldridge got a bucket, Portland got a stop and then Aldridge went to the line for two free-throws and made both. He finally missed, but Batum flew in to get the rebound an put back. Portland got stops and Lillard had two open looks at three-pointers that simply did not go. Matthews, who switched onto Durant later in the game as Batum's burden on both ends was too much for him to effectively guard Durant down the stretch.

    "I was very very tired so I couldn't really do both (carry the load on offense and guard Durant)," said Batum about the reason to switch. "Sometimes I have the ball a lot, like every possession I had the ball on offense and then I had to guard the best scorer in the league on the other end. I said, 'Wes, get him, I can't do both.' I was tired at the end."

    The switch proved fruitful, as Oklahoma City came up empty on six consecutive possessions. A Matthews steal with 29 seconds left set up a Batum three to make it a one-point game. A melee ensued on the next possession and Batum had a look at a lay-up for the lead but it was too high off the glass. Portland had one more chance to tie or win the game on the final possession after Kendrick Perkins split a pair of free-throws. With 8.9 seconds Portland drew-up a high-post hand-off play with Aldridge and Batum. Aldridge elected not to hand it off to Batum and Aldridge missed a tough shot over Perkins.

    "We didn't make enough plays down the stretch," Matthews said.

    Portland has thrived in close games this season but the ball can't always bounce your way. Against Miami, it was the Heat who had chances go begging and against the Thunder, it was unfortunately Portland's turn to feel the disappointment of being so close but not coming out on top.

    The Trail Blazers have a day without a game before they have a big divisional match-up in Denver against the Nuggets. That game will be at 6PM and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

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