The Oklahoma City Thunder (11-16) caught fire for the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter Tuesday night inside a dimmed-down Chesapeake Energy Arena before falling 115-104 to the Portland Trailblazers.
OKC stormed back from a 14-point deficit to eventually take a 102-97 lead over the Portland Trail Blazers (17-10) with 4:48 remaining.
A 23-4 run fueled the Thunder down the stretch as they rallied around the competitiveness they have instilled over the last two weeks.
However, it also forced Portland to deploy the hardest-hitting weapon from almost any arsenal in the NBA right now.
Damian Lillard lit a late fire and sparked the Blazers with four three-pointers in the final four minutes, capping his night with 31 points while helping hand the Thunder an 11-point loss.
Portland’s final six makes were from long range with Lillard taking part in all six. He drained his four against a tough defensive matchup in Thunder guard Luguentz Dort and assisted on two more to Gary Trent Jr. and Robert Covington.
Lillard went 12-for-25 from the field, dished out 10 assists, and grabbed seven rebounds.
“I thought the biggest breakdowns we had on him there were where he kind of beat our coverage and was able to commit the third guy to the ball and spray it,” Thunder head coach Mark Daignault said postgame. “Those are the plays that are more controllable. The shots he made were bombs.”
The Thunder gave up 64 points in the first half and found themselves in a 24-point hole at one point during the third quarter.
OKC turned the game around with 46% shooting in the second half while allowing zero fast-break points and more effectively crashing the boards.
Daignault was also pleased with a certain group he felt helped the team dig out of the hole.
“That group of Muscala, Roby, Justin Jackson, Bazley, and Hami (Diallo) was really, really good,” Daignault said postgame. “I thought our defense really clamped down and we played with great energy. That group made the run and really bridged us to the fourth.”
Dort was not only important for the Thunder defensively, slowing down Lillard until the final minutes, he was also the team’s top offensive threat for most of the game, posting 23 points with six rebounds and three assists.
He scored 10 in the third quarter and five in the fourth as OKC mounted its comeback.
Hamidou Diallo chipped in 17 points in 30 minutes off the bench as well as Isaiah Roby and Muscala scoring 11 points apiece from the second unit. Darius Bazley scored 14, including 10 in the first half while Al Horford finished with 12.
The Blazers, especially Enes Kanter, were extremely active on the glass, out-rebounding the Thunder 54-46.
Kanter grabbed 21 of those, including seven on the offensive end. OKC curtailed the battle late in the game, but in the process gave up 16 second-chance points.
Oklahoma City looks to bounce back Wednesday at Memphis as the team continues a brutal stretch of five games in seven days and begins a three-game road trip.
Tipoff against the Grizzlies is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT.