Right about now, LaMarcus Aldridge is wondering where that straitjacket came from. The Blazers’ forward did nail down a double-double — ten points and 12 rebounds — but usually Aldridge is good for 20, even 30 against those OKC ruffians, even if the Thunder did win the last five games against Portland. Besides, the Blazers had a two-point lead at the half, and while the Thunder rallied, there wasn’t too much to sweat: with six minutes left, Aldridge took a pass from Nicolas Batum and dropped it into the bucket from 19 feet out, and Portland was down only 88-83. Little did he know that the game was over right then. The Fail Blazers, normally a good fourth-quarter team, did not get so much as a single free throw for the rest of the game, and were sent back down the trail with a 103-83 loss and their chance at the #8 seed decidedly diminished.
Damian Lillard, the Blazers’ #6 pick in 2012, is officially declared the Bright Spot of the game: he rolled up 19 points, right at his average, and served up six assists. Portland had five in double figures, including Lillard’s backup point guard, OKC expat Eric Maynor, who led the bench with ten. Still, 40.5 percent shooting is fairly terrible, and while they were doing well with the long ball early on, eventually the treys quit falling — they wound up 10-26.
Both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were feeling it tonight, Batman 10-17 for 24 points, Robin 9-18 for 21. And the bench, give or take Derek Fisher, was hitting, led by Kevin Martin with 11 and Nick Collison with 10 on 5-6 from the floor. Up front, the Serge Protector was working up to speed: Ibaka had 16 points, only three boards, but five blocks.
You want better news? The Rockets edged the Spurs, 96-95, on a James Harden (of course) pullup with 4.5 seconds left. (The Beard finished with 29.) So the top of the mountain is now only a game and a half away. Not that the much-improved Wizards, 3-2 in their last five and 1-0 against OKC this year, will care when they come to town Wednesday.