The Portland Trail Blazers clinched a playoff berth with a 120-115 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight in the Moda Center. Al-Farouq Aminu led the Blazers with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, and CJ McCollum chipped in 26 points. On the other side of the ball, Enes Kanter finished with 33 points and 20 rebounds for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City, having already clinched the Western Conference's three-seed, elected to rest Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Andre Roberson. The Blazers wasted no time seizing the opportunity to punch their postseason ticket, despite playing their fourth game in five nights.
In the first half, Oklahoma City's backups showed up, but their defense sure didn't. Portland had no problems scoring from all over the court.The lack of defensive effort led to several highlight plays for the Blazers:
Aminu continued his scoring binge, and combined with Harkless and McCollum to open the game with five consecutive three-point plays, taking a 15-6 lead. Every time the Blazers looked like they'd run away with it, OKC did just enough to stay close. Enes Kanter reminded the Blazers they have some trouble with paint defense, scoring nearly at will against Portland's big men. As the benches ended, Lillard nailed a three to push Portland ahead by 8. The teams played to a standstill to close the quarter.
Portland 33, Oklahoma City 26
More of the same in the second quarter, as OKC tried to stay close, but Portland told them to talk to the hand. Two Dion Waiters free throws cut the Blazer lead to four. But Portland immediately went on a run, scoring 9 straight points behind the strong play of Gerald Henderson. As the starters returned, Portland's 18 point lead dropped to 11. But the game never really felt in doubt.
Portland 72, Oklahoma City 59
McCollum and Aminu opened the third quarter with back-to-back three-pointers for a 17 point Blazer lead.
A Plumlee steal led to a Harkless dunk, and suddenly the Blazer lead jumped to 19 points. OKC might have considered bringing in the bench, but they were already in the game. Anthony Morrow sank consecutive three-pointers to keep the outcome in doubt for a few minutes. Four minutes later, the Blazer lead was back to 20. But as the clock wound down, a late three-point play kept OKC within shouting distance.
Portland 99, Oklahoma City 83
OKC cut the lead to 13 with a Kanter three-pointer as the fourth quarter opened, and a three-point play cut it to 12. Another sloppy Blazsr play leads to an Oklahoma City layup, and Terry Stotts took a timeout with the lead down to 10. The bench settled down, with an Allen Crabbe three-pointer helping push the lead back to 15. Not taking any chances, Stotts brought Lillard and the starters back into the game. OKC responded with consecutive three-pointers. With five minutes to go, another OKC layup cut it to 10. Portland responded with Plumlee-to-Harkless for the dunk.
The teams traded buckets for the next two minutes, as the clock started to become Portland's friend. Randy Foye cut the Blazer lead to single digits with two minutes left, and Morrow had a chance to cut it to five... but missed the three-pointer. That was their last chance, and an exhausted Blazer team held on for a big victory.
The Blazers wind down the regular season in relaxing fashion. They have two home games over the next seven days, against the giant-killer Minnesota Timberwolves, and Will Barton and the Denver Nuggets. But stay tuned, later we'll have more analysis about tonight's game from Dave Deckard.