After trailing by 10 points at halftime, the Oklahoma City Thunder (42-12) rallied behind a 13-point third quarter by Reggie Jackson and a monster scoring game by Kevin Durant to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers (36-16) by a final score of 98-95 on Tuesday night.
The Thunder now push their lead in the Western Conference to a full four games over the second place San Antonio Spurs.
The Trail Blazers are now losers of five of their last seven.
Despite losing by only three points, Portland's shooting throughout the night was horribly inconsistent as they finished at just 37.6 percent. Their two All-Stars, LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, were not their usual selves.
Durant mentioned after the game how heated a rivalry this is starting to become with Portland, via Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman.
We respect this team, they respect us. But we don't like them and they don't like us. That's point blank.
Player Grades for Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant, Small Forward
There's something about facing the Portland Trail Blazers that just brings out the best in Kevin Durant. He's averaged 38.7 points in three prior meetings, which is his highest total against any team this season.
Durant was not a happy camper in the first quarter.
He picked up a technical foul at roughly the halfway point on what he believed to be a bogus foul call. Even as the period came to a close, Durant walked to the sidelines giving the officials his two cents.
He was favoring his right hip, immediately wrapping it in ice as he sat on the bench. Considering he was the only Thunder player to give the team much of anything on offense at that point, it couldn't have been the most reassuring of sights.
A couple of his teammates started becoming more of a factor on the scoreboard, so Durant wasn't ultimately left high and dry carrying a majority of the load.
At the end of three quarters, Durant had already scored 31 points, but his fourth foul with three minutes remaining put him on high alert.
You can't stop KD. You can only hope to contain him. Portland's wings put up a fight, but the three-time scoring champion still dropped 36 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Durant did have half of the Thunder's turnovers, though, with eight. This was the fifth time in his last six games where he's had four or more.
Serge Ibaka, Power Forward
When you have more personal fouls (3) than points, rebounds and blocked shots combined (2) in an opening half, you know you're starting things off on the wrong foot. Numbers don't lie.
Serga Ibaka put more of an emphasis on his man-to-man defense over putting the ball in the basket, but his efforts against LaMarcus Aldridge and company were subpar at best, at least early on.
It got much better late in the third quarter and early in the fourth.
His three-pointer with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter was not only his first made shot of the night, but also the first field goal made by someone in the starting lineup other than Durant.
Ibaka had seven points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes.
Grade: C +
Reggie Jackson, Point Guard
The third-year pro picked up two quick fouls in the opening five minutes, which actually wasn't even his biggest problem.
He couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat (an oldie, but a goodie), missing his first nine from the field. Reggie Jackson didn't register his first points of the game until there was a little over seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.
I guess that's all he needed to get himself going, scoring thirteen points in the period. Better late than never, I suppose.
That first half sure was ugly though.
Grade: C +/B -
Thabo Sefolosha, Shooting Guard
The Swiss sensation went to the locker room in the first half after injuring his hand.
Although he only played eight minutes, his two points at the charity stripe were the only points scored by an OKC Thunder starter not named Durant during that timeframe.
Kendrick Perkins, Center
It's not as if Kendrick Perkins will ever be confused for an offensive powerhouse, but with Robin Lopez pulverizing the veteran on both ends of the court, you would have liked to see something more than what he was giving his team.
What's there to like about two points, four fouls and two turnovers in 26 minutes? Not a lot.
His performance will be remembered more for how much of a liability he was against Lopez, as well as LaMarcus Aldridge.
Grade: D -
Nick Collison, Sixth Man
"Mr. Pick And Roll" Nick Collison.
It's a fundamental play in basketball, but when Collison is the one setting the screens, it becomes a subtle work of art. It worked so effectively against Portland that he wound up getting several easy looks for nine first half points.
His season high in scoring (12) came against the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 25, so he nearly surpassed that after just two quarters.
To bad he didn't score in the final 24 minutes. I would have liked to see him on the floor in favor of Perkins with the game as close as it was.
This was the first double-digit scoring outing for Jeremy Lamb since Jan. 31 when he scored 12 against the Brooklyn Nets.
His all-important three-pointer put Oklahoma City up 96-95, which was enough to keep them there for the victory.
He played 30 minutes off the bench, scoring 19 points (second-highest scoring performance of the season) on 8-of-11 shooting.
Veteran guard Derek Fisher hit two three-pointers for six points and rookie Steven Adams grabbed two rebounds in 12 minutes.
Grade: A -
Player Grades for Portland Trail Blazers
LaMarcus Aldridge, Power Forward
LaMarcus Aldridge was originally listed as questionable (soreness) for the game, but wound up starting in his usual power forward slot.
If he was still experiencing any pain at tip-off, he wasn't letting it show as he scored four of Portland's first eight points. Aldridge also put up 11 shots after playing all 12 minutes of the first quarter.
His efficiency from the field died down as the game progressed. I'm not sure how much his sore groin played into that, but the lift in his shot appeared to be laboring.
Aldridge got to the free-throw line with 3:44 left in the fourth quarter, resulting in his first points of the second half.
He finished the night hitting just 5-of-22 from the floor, including a botched jumper with time expiring that could have won the game.
Damian Lillard, Point Guard
It was a tale of two halves for Western Conference All-Star guard Damian Lillard.
After scoring 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting early on, Lillard would come out of the locker room for the second half and fail to build on that momentum.
His shot selection got noticeably worse, and his willingness to attack the basket was nowhere near what it was through the first two quarters.
There were moments in the fourth quarter where the young guard didn't come through on plays that he usually delivers on, including his three-point attempt that could have tied the game.
It was a night to forget.
Grade: C +
Robin Lopez, Center
Did anyone in the OKC frontcourt even bother to make Robin Lopez a priority? Nope. Not at all.
Whatever he wanted, whether it was on the glass or around the basket on offense, Lopez got.
It was impressive because it all came from pure effort. He was a beast on the glass and saw little to no trouble from the likes of Perkins and Ibaka. He simply outplayed those who looked to contain him.
His 17 points and 14 rebounds (six offensive) were his 19th double-double of the season.
Grade: A +
Wesley Matthews, Shooting Guard
A 41.7 percent three-point shooter didn't get the job done in an area of his game where he's one of the NBA's best, missing all four of his attempts.
Wesley Matthews turned the ball over four times and missed eight total shots.
On the bright side, he did get to the charity stripe on eight occasions, hitting seven. He couldn't hold his own when he paired up with Durant on defense, but you could say that about a lot of guys around the league on a game-to-game basis.
Grade: C -
Nicolas Batum, Small Forward
The value that Nicolas Batum brings by being a 6'8" defender who can guard multiple positions is infinite.
There were occasions where he would go man-to-man with Durant and then come back several plays later with a full court press on Jackson, showcasing his versatility against multiple positions.
He forced Durant into some bad looks late in the fourth quarter as Portland trailed by one on the scoreboard. His three-point shot was also an asset, going 3-of-5 from behind the arc. He's only shooting 33.7 percent on the season.
Speaking of forcing Durant into situations he doesn't want to be in, Batum's stellar defense caused an inbounds pass to go array and bounce off the fingertips of KD. It gave the Trail Blazers one last crack at retaking the lead, although it didn't amount to anything.
C.J. McCollum, Sixth Man
The rookie out of Lehigh University came out swinging for the second unit.
C.J. McCollum lit up the Thunder from behind the arc in his first seven minutes, draining three three-pointers.
He was the first Trail Blazer to hit double-digit scoring, finishing with 13 first half points.
His five turnovers were a problem, but overall, McCollum had himself a tremendous game.
Greg Anthony said it best during the Sprint Halftime Report. Portland got themselves a major steal when they drafted McCollum 10th overall.
Grade: B +
After a collision under the basket, center Joel Freeland fell to the ground, grasping his right knee. He had to be helped off the court by his teammates. He certainly had the look of a man who believes he's going to be out of action for a long, long time.
Thomas Robinson gave head coach Terry Stotts some decent minutes off the bench, providing energy on the defensive end and offensive glass.
Meyers Leonard saw 13 minutes of PT with Freeland hurt, while Earl Watson did the same with Mo Williams still out for Portland.
Grade: C +
The Oklahoma City Thunder will visit Staples Center on Feb. 13 to take on the Los Angeles Lakers, while the Portland Trail Blazers will do battle with the Los Angeles Clippers in the same building the night before.
These will be the last games for both teams before NBA All-Star Weekend.
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