Aldridge’s Second-Half Cool-Off Dooms The Trail Blazers As 13-Point Lead Slips Away

Aldridge’s Second-Half Cool-Off Dooms The Trail Blazers As 13-Point Lead Slips Away

I’m not sure what it is with these Blazer games, but I get this feeling that, despite last night’s win, the Blazers are a team the Thunder may want to avoid outright in the playoffs. This is the one team I’ve seen repeatedly this season that the Thunder just can not blow open a double-digit lead against.

This pic has nearly every significant contributor on both teams in frame. Brook Lopez gets a piece of Reggie Jackson's shot as (from left to right) Jeremy Lamb, Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nick Collison, Nicolas Batum, Kevin Durant, and Damien Lillard watch. Durant poted a 36-point, 10-rebound double-double, as Jackson finished with 17 points. Lamb's 19 from the bench made him the game's second-leading scorer behind Durant. Lopez was good for a 17-point, 14-rebound double-double, as Aldridge claimed a 12-point 12-rebound double-double of his own. Batum's 18 points led the Blazers, as Lilliard chipped in 16, and Matthews contributed 11.

This pic has nearly every significant contributor on both teams in frame. Robin Lopez gets a piece of Reggie Jackson’s shot as (from left to right) Jeremy Lamb, Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nick Collison, Nicolas Batum, Kevin Durant, and Damian Lillard watch. Durant posted a 36-point, 10-rebound double-double, as Jackson finished with 17 points. Lamb’s 19 from the bench made him the game’s second-leading scorer behind Durant. Lopez was good for a 17-point, 14-rebound double-double, as Aldridge claimed a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double of his own. Batum’s 18 points led the Blazers, as Lillard chipped in 16, and Matthews contributed 11.

At the 9:19 mark of the 1st quarter, it was 4-all. That’s when a 15-2 run for the Blazers established a 13-point lead (19-6) with 4:03 to play in the 1st. With the Thunder still down 11 (22-11) and 2:06 left in the 1st the Thunder established an 10-3 run that went into the second quarter. The score at the end of 1 was 25-19.

Aldridge pops one over Serge Ibaka. Ibaka claimed 11 boards last night.

Aldridge pops one over Serge Ibaka. Ibaka claimed 11 boards last night.

The run ended with 11:32 to play in the half, bringing the Thunder to within 4 (25-21). With 7:27 on the game clock, and the Blazer lead at 5 (39-34), the Thunder sparked another run, this one a 7-0 run to give them their first lead of the game (41-39) with an even 5:00 until halftime. The Thunder lead was 43-41 with 3:44 in the half, when the Blazers ended the 2nd on a 14-2 run that reestablished a 10-point halftime lead for the Blazers (55-45).

Aldridge with the tough shot over Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.

Aldridge with the tough shot over Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.

Oddly enough, there were really no large runs in the 3rd by either team. The 3rd just featured the Thunder slowly, but surely chipping away at the Blazer lead, until it was completely eliminated heading into the 4th quarter (80-all).

Lamb with the drive to the hoop.

Lamb with the drive to the hoop.

The 4th quarter was a pretty tight one the whole way. With the score 84-80 in the Blazers favor, and 7:46 to play, the Thunder spark a 7-0 run to give them what was at the time their largest lead of the game (87-84). Then the Blazers subsequently pull off a 5-0 run to take back the lead (89-87) with 5:45 left in the game. The rest of the game was pure “grind-it-out” basketball. Every time the Blazers scored, the Thunder would immediately answer at the other end. And the Thunder’s last answer sealed the deal for them, as a Jeremy Lamb 3-pointer claimed a 1-point Thunder lead (96-95) with 1:38 left. The only other points came off of two Reggie Jackson free throws, and the win was academic. This puts the Thunder at 42-12 for the season, while dropping the Blazers to 36-16. This win also ends the season series in a 2-2 split.

Jackson serves Batum.

Jackson serves Batum.

Kevin Durant does it again with a 36-point, 10-rebound double-double. Jackson added 17 points himself. And although Serge Ibaka didn’t double in points, he claimed 11 boards. Lamb’s 19 points off of the bench was actually good for second-leading scorer to take the floor, which is very impressive for a bench player.

Durant shoots over Batum.

Durant shoots over Batum.

All five Blazers starters hit double-figures in scoring, and two even double-doubled. LaMarcus Aldridge is almost always good for a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds), but he ended his night on 5-for-22 shooting, including a dismal 0-for-9 in the second half. Robin Lopez had a better night with his 17 points and 14 rebounds. Nicolas Batum’s 18 points led the team, while Damian Lillard dropped 16 points, and Wesley Matthews added 11. Even CJ McCollum was good for 15 points off of the Blazer bench.

Collison defends Lillard, but look closely, and you'll see CJ McCollum in the background. He was good for 15 points off of the Blazer bench.

Collison defends Lillard. But look closely, and you’ll see CJ McCollum in the background. He was good for 15 points off of the Blazer bench.

Next the Thunder travel to the famed Staples Center in Los Angeles to square off against the Lakers. The Thunder took the last meeting in OKC by a score of 122-97. This poor Lakers squad has been riddled with injuries all season long, and it’s quite honestly hard for me to see them beating the Thunder when they’re so short-handed. They currently have seven players on the injured list (roughly half of the entire squad): Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee), Pau Gasol (strained right groin), Jordan Farmar (hamstring soreness), Xavier Henry (right knee bone bruise),  Nick Young (left knee fracture and bone bruise), Jodie Meeks (sprained right ankle),  although Steve Nash (nerve root irritation) is currently listed as probable. The game will be featured as the back-end of TNT’s double-header, with expected tip-off at 9:30 CST. Not near a TV, or on the road? No problem. WWLS The Sports Animal has your game action covered.

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