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Aldridge, Lillard rally Blazers past Thunder

Portland wins 115-112

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer
Published: February 28, 2015, 12:00am

PORTLAND — In a wild and crazy Friday night game with division implications, the Trail Blazers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-112 behind a huge fourth quarter.

Portland won with big performances from LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, surviving a monstrous triple-double from Russell Westbrook of 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

Aldridge finished with 29 points, 16 rebounds and a season-high five assists and Lillard had 29 as well, his highest scoring game since Jan. 11.

“That was a playoff game tonight,” said Nicolas Batum, who finished with nine points and four rebounds.

Westbrook, by most accounts, is the fiercest competitor in the NBA.

And no less than 10 seconds into the game, Westbrook went right to the rim. He missed, but the tone was set.

“The way he’s playing the last couple of weeks, it’s tough to stop him,” Batum said “This team did a great job to contain him.”

Lillard answered the bell with equal ferocity, answering Westbrook’s quick first drive with a lay-up of his own.

But the Thunder were dominant in the first three quarters.

A dunk by Serge Ibaka at the 8:17 mark of the third quarter put the Thunder lead at 15 at 69-54.

After a brilliant assist to find an open Wesley Matthews, Aldridge rebounded his own miss to tie the game at 103 with 4:33 left.

New acquisition Arron Afflalo came up big with 18 points off the bench.

Aldridge and the rest of the Blazers played with equal intensity. Aldridge ran down the court with ferocity and was aggressive on the glass.

Aldridge and Lillard scored 19 of Portland’s 28 first quarter points but with Westbrook’s play and some missed opportunities, Portland led by only three after the first quarter.

With Westbrook hitting the bench, the Thunder took the lead.

Anthony Morrow lit the nets on fire from deep and back-up big man Mitch McGary was aggressive, if not efficient, though he would heat up later on his way to 20 points and nine rebounds.

With Friday’s triple-double, Westbrook became the first player since LeBron James in 2009 to record three straight.

He was nearly there by halftime, notching 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the first half.

The Blazers were 6-of-23 from the field in the second quarter. Lillard and Aldridge’s aggression alone was not enough as the Thunder led by 12 at halftime.

The Blazers started the third quarter on a 7-0 run, which inched them closer and it appeared they were on their way to another strong second half.

But unlike the Spurs on Wednesday, Westbrook did not relent.

The Blazers clawed back again and the tensions only rose.

Aldridge’s shots around the rim and from the field let him down most of the night but his aggression on both ends shined through.

Lillard, on the other hand, continued to hum with one of his best shooting games of the past month.

The Thunder were forced to go small, being down centers Enes Kanter and Steven Adams.

Afflalo was key down the stretch, playing every minute of the fourth quarter and scoring 11 of his 18 points in the final period.

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Lillard coming back into the game got Portland on more even footing.

Aldridge’s decision making out of the pick-and-roll to find open shooters was key down the stretch against Oklahoma City’s aggressive defense.

Aldridge and Ibaka were given off-setting technicals at the 1:48 mark.

Westbrook missed the first of three free-throws when Wesley Matthews was called for a 3-shot foul with 2.5 seconds left and the Thunder down by three.

But both teams suffered some injuries in the late stages.

Westbrook got a knee to the face from his own teammate Andre Roberson and head coach Scott Brooks said that he does not know the status for Westbrook moving forward.

For Portland, Matthews was grabbing at his right hand after the game and continued to favor it afterwards in the locker room. Though Matthews said that he does not plan to get the hand X-rayed.

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Columbian Trail Blazers Writer