The Oklahoma City Thunder faltered late opposite an urgent, home-standing Portland Trail Blazers collective.
Friday night, Oklahoma City’s bid for five-consecutive wins fell apart 114-109, as Portland fought to maintain fading post-season aspirations.
Additionally, Russell Westbrook’s 45-point eruption was mitigated while the NBA’s premiere clutch marksman misfired (2-of-11 FGM) down the stretch.
After chasing Damian Lillard (33 pts) throughout a competitive third meeting, Westbrook and Oklahoma City’s fatigue manifested amid Portland’s 33-24 fourth-quarter revival.
Before a tense Moda Center, Lillard’s bold effort was enhanced by his potent supporting cast.
CJ McCollum (18), Jusuf Nurkic (18 pts, 12 rebs, 6 ast), and Al-Farouq Aminu (14) highlighted a collection of five Trail Blazers to join Lillard in double-figure scoring.
In survival mode, Portland owned both the glass (45-40) and paint (54-38 PITP) while limiting OKC to 39% FGM.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City opted to hoist 29 three-point shots instead of attacking the vulnerable Trail Blazer’s interior. Though 11-of-29 from deep, overall the Thunder’s starting front-court again yielded (6 points) anemic production.
In fact, each OKC starter not named Westbrook combined for 8 points.
On this curious night for Thunder basketball, Enes Kanter (18 pts, 10 rebs), Taj Gibson (15), Doug McDermott (9), and the debuting Norris Cole (7) attempted to strengthen Westbrook’s mammoth three-quarter output.
However, this effort fell just short.
With the loss, Oklahoma City drops to 35-26, as Portland (25-35) ascended two positions in the scramble for the eighth, and final, playoff seed to sit 2.5 games behind Denver.
Oklahoma City continues a three-game road trip tonight vs. Phoenix.