Thunder final score: Durant's 33 and strong defensive effort earns win over Trail Blazers, 87-83

USA TODAY Sports

What happens when the Thunder invade the Rose Garden without Serge Ibaka?

Box Score

Blazers Edge Recap

Kevin Durant had 33 as the short handed Oklahoma City Thunder defeated divisional rival The Portland Trailblazers 87-83.

Both Serge Ibaka (chest contusion) and Thabo Sefolosha (neck strain) were held out of tonight's game, meaning Nick Collison and DeAndre Liggins got the start tonight, ending a 80 consecutive games streak for the Thunder's usual starting lineup.

The Thunder trailed by one at the half, but pulled away in the third thanks to Kevin Durant's 13 points in the quarter. Portland eventually crept back and had a chance to tie in the closing seconds. However, LeMarcus Aldridge airballed the game tying jumper, sealing the victory for the Thunder.

Portland was led by 33 from LaMarcus Aldridge and 21 from Nicolas Batum.

What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?

The Thunder got a big win on the road against a very tough divisional rival in Portland. But the story of tonight is DeAndre Liggins, despite being a late addition to the starting lineup, he led the Thunder with 40 minutes on the floor and nearly got a double double. Liggins was able to step up and play a huge role in tonight's win, hopefully we will be seeing more of him in the next few games.

What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?

The Thunder's defense won them the game tonight. OKC was missing 2 starters and had Kevin Martin and Russell Westbrook go for a combined 6-29. The Trailblazers were hindered by their own poor performers, as Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard combined for 9-31 on the night. After the game, Scott Brooks called tonight the best defensive performance he has seen from the team this season.

What was a key statistic to understanding the game?

Despite missing two of their best defenders, the Thunder held Portland to only 36% shooting on the night. Perhaps one of the Trailblazers final possessions best describes the game. LaMarcus Aldridge, who had been causing the Thunder problems all night, airballed the potential game tying 15 footer thanks to the Thunder defense.

Most of the time, the defensive end of the floor suffers the most when there are lineup changes, but this team showed it's versatility and veteran leadership tonight, and stayed consistent on the defensive end the entire game.

What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?

While the Thunder finish their road trip with a visit to Phoenix tomorrow, tonight may have been DeAndre Liggins' coming out party. No one could of predicted he would be playing 40 minutes in a big time role for the Thunder. When Thabo was injured last year, the Thunder seemed to struggle with who to fill in that role, and it seemed as if they might struggle again when Liggins, who had only played 50 minutes prior to this game in his entire NBA career, was announced as a starter. At the very least, let's hope this means Scott Brooks is adding another player to the Thunder's regular rotation.

***

Dara's Awards

Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant 33 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists.

Thunder Down Under: DeAndre Liggins 11 points, 9 rebounds.

Thunder Blunder: Kevin Martin 4 points, 2 turnovers, 1-8 shooting.

Thunder Plunderer: LaMarcus Aldridge 33 rebounds, 11 rebounds

***

Next game: @ Phoenix Suns, on Jan. 13, 2012, @ 8 CDT

If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.

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