OKC fall late to Portland

Mar 2, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Taj Gibson (22) scramble for a ball on the floor during the second half of the game at Moda Center. The Blazers won 114-109. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

45 points from Russell Westbrook wasn’t enough as the Thunder couldn’t hold on in the fourth quarter. The Trail Blazers outscored the Thunder 33-24 in the fourth en route to a 114-109 win over Oklahoma City.

The Thunder fell to 35-26 on the season and are seventh in the Western Conference.

A 16-0 fourth quarter run saw the Portland Trail Blazers turn a 101-96 Thunder lead into a 110-101 Thunder deficit. It eventually became the point where Oklahoma City could not overcome.

Oklahoma City newcomer Taj Gibson added 15 points, including a high-arching buzzer-beater from 61 feet away to put the Thunder up 60-57 at halftime.

Enes Kanter had 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Steven Adams struggled with a cool -23 in the game. He scored only 2 points and was 1-of-3 from the floor.

Alex Abrines’ 3-pointer put the Thunder in front 97-89 with 7:48 left for their biggest lead of the game. But Al-Farouq Aminu made a layup that tied it at 101 with 3:43 left. He missed the free throw, but Jusuf Nurkic got the tip-in to give Portland the lead.

Lillard’s 3-pointer extended the lead to 106-101 before Westbrook’s driving layup and free throw pulled Oklahoma City to 110-106.

Abrines’ 3-pointer with 17.7 seconds left narrowed it to 110-109. Lillard was fouled twice in the final seconds and made all four free throws before Westbrook and Doug McDermott both missed 3-pointers at the end.

Westbrook hit all 15 of his free throws. He had eight rebounds and four assists.

The Thunder were coming off a 109-106 victory over Utah. Westbrook had 43 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in that game for his fourth straight triple-double and 30th of the season. The Thunder opened the game against the Jazz with 12 straight threes.

The Thunder were without Victor Oladipo for a fourth straight game because of back spasms. Abrines started in his place. Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said he did not think the spasms were the sign of a more serious issue.

The game marked the Thunder debut of guard Norris Cole, signed on Wednesday to help fill the void after the team traded backup point guard Cameron Payne to the Chicago Bulls. Cole won NBA titles with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013, but most recently played with the Shandong Golden Stars of the Chinese Basketball Association.

Gibson and McDermott, acquired in the trade with the Bulls, were playing in their fourth game with the Thunder.

Portland took a 20-8 lead on Lillard’s layup and Nurkic’s short jumper. Oklahoma City went on a 16-6 spurt to close to 26-24 at the end of the opening quarter.

Cole hit a 3-pointer early in the second quarter, his first field goal with the team, and the Thunder went up 27-26. But the Blazers reclaimed the lead and went ahead 52-45 on Aminu’s 3-pointer.

CJ McCollum’s hit a three to give Portland a 57-48 lead. However, Westbrook made consecutive 3-pointers and three straight free throws to tie it before Gibson’s stunning shot from beyond halfcourt.

The Thunder led 85-81 heading into the final period.

Oklahoma City heads to Phoenix tonight to complete the back-to-back. Game time is set to tip-off at 8 p.m.

Keys to the Game

Play Smart: C

Oklahoma City struggled at points throughout the game but really overcome in the early parts of the game. Oklahoma City fought back but couldn’t close. The Thunder can and should do better going forward.

End Strong: F

It’s weird to talk bad about this category. Oklahoma City has done a great job all year of taking care in the final minutes of games. They were tied for the least losses in the fourth when leading. That changed tonight. Call it a blip on the radar. It’ll change back to normal when Oklahoma City gets Victor Oladipo back.

Capitalize on Blazer mistakes: C

Oklahoma City found themselves down early down 20-8. However, they clawed back and even took an 8-point lead. However, they couldn’t really make the Blazers pay when they needed and that was their down fall tonight.

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