Aldridge cold in Blazers' 98-95 loss

Forward's late shot is off the mark against Oklahoma City

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers writer

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PORTLAND -- Jeremy Lamb's 3-pointer with 1:38 left in the game gave the Oklahoma City Thunder a lead that ended up being enough to push them ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Thunder won 98-95 Tuesday night at the Moda Center by holding the Blazers scoreless for the final 1:38 of the game.

Lamb scored 19 points off the bench in addition to Kevin Durant's 36 to lift the Thunder to victory.

LaMarcus Aldridge went 5-of-22 from the field and missed an open midrange jumper that would have given the Blazers the lead with two seconds left.

The win secured a tie of the season series, with all four games going down to the final moments. Durant says that the teams respect each other, but share a mutual dislike.

"We respect this team, they respect us. But we don't like them and they don't like us," the NBA's leading scorer said.

The Blazers' Nicolas Batum said: "They are number one and we want to be in their place. They know that. Every time we play them it's a tough game. It's like a playoff game. Every possession counts."

When asked weather this close loss hurt more than others, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was straight to the point.

"No. All losses suck," he said. "There's no silver linings in some of the losses. We feel like we're one of the better teams in the league, and we want to defend home court."

Thunder coach Scott Brooks and Durant praised Kendrick Perkins for his defense on Aldridge. However, Aldridge's status was questionable before the game with a groin injury.

Rookie guard CJ McCollum won't be playing with his fellow rookies and sophomore teammate Damian Lillard in Friday night's Rising Stars contest but continues to produce in games that matter.

McCollum scored 15 points off the bench, aiding the Blazers in their third game without back-up point guard Mo Williams, who has been away with a personal issue.

Stotts showed trust in the rookie, as he was the first guard off the bench.

The rest of the Blazers along with McCollum helped carry the load as all five starters scored in double-figures for the 14th time this season.

The Blazers held a 10-point lead at halftime. But the Thunder were relentless, storming back in the third period to tie the game.

Durant picked up his fourth foul with over three minutes left in the period and the Thunder down by two. Reggie Jackson, who scored 13 in the period, helped the Thunder tie the game.

The Blazers were down a man when Joel Freeland went down with a knee injury in the second quarter and he did not return. Losing Freeland, the Blazers were without their two most-used bench players.

Batum also did his part in the second half, scoring 13 of his 18 points.

It wasn't enough, however, and the Blazers now look to a game in L.A. against a Clippers team on their heels in the standings before Portland can get what seems like a much-needed break.

"We can't be on vacation now," Batum said.