OKLAHOMA CITY – If it wasn’t the win of the season for the Trail Blazers, it was up there on Tuesday when the Blazers came back from 14 down, then held off a furious 58-point performance from Russell Westbrook to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 126-121 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Jusuf Nurkic made two big baskets inside in the final minute to break a tie at 116 and the Blazers rode the hot shooting of Allen Crabbe, the superb defense of Al-Farouq Aminu and clutch free throw shooting from CJ McCollum to win three in a row for the first time since Nov. 30-Dec. 5.
The Blazers’ surge couldn’t come at a better time, as their best basketball is coming as the playoff race in the West tightens. Portland (27-35) moved to within 1.5 games of Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot with 20 games left. Twelve of the Blazers’ final 20 games are at home.
Nurkic continued to be a season-changing addition for the Blazers, as he finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Aminu has proven to be a difference maker when he is healthy. He had 12 points and seven rebounds and three blocks, including two at the rim in key moments in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Crabbe led the Blazers with 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting, showing an assertiveness seldom seen this season. He led a bench unit that turned the game around in the second quarter, as Shabazz Napier and Aminu led the defense and Crabbe and Meyers Leonard (12 points) provided an offensive spark.
Westbrook set his career-high with 58 points, and added nine assists and three rebounds, but he shot 21-of-39, which included 6-of-19 down the stretch.
Oklahoma City took at 67-61 halftime lead in a rip-roaring first half that saw the Thunder shoot 67.6 percent and the Blazers 55 percent. Westbrook had 28 points by halftime as the Blazers alternated defenders between Lillard and Maurice Harkless.
The Thunder led by as many as 14 in the first quarter, but the Blazers’ second unit opened the second quarter on an 11-0 and 14-2 run, which was keyed by the defense of Napier and Aminu and the offense of Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard.
Notes: Damian Lillard set the franchise mark with a three-pointer in his 42nd consecutive game, breaking the mark held by Clifford Robinson in the 1995-1996 season … The Blazers announced that Ed Davis underwent successful surgery on his left shoulder on Tuesday. He is expected to be back for the start of the 2017-2018 training camp.
Next up: Philadelphia at Blazers, 7 p.m. Thursday (CSN).