A Trail Blazers team that has a hard time finishing games exorcised some ghosts Thursday with a late-game avalanche that buried the Oklahoma City Thunder and resuscitated some life into Portland’s playoff hopes.
Portland went on a 16-0 run – holding the Thunder scoreless from 5:42 until 59 seconds left – then held on through some shaky last minute play to beat Oklahoma City 114-109 in one of the better games at the Moda Center this season.
With a buzz in the arena to start the fourth after a fan -- Peter Crum of Beaverton -- hit a halfcourt shot to win a Toyota, the Blazers erased an eight-point deficit behind the play of Jusuf Nurkic and turned it into a 110-101 lead with 1:37 left.
But Oklahoma City came back, getting to within 110-109 after Alex Abrines hit a three-pointer – the third Thunder shot attempt of the possession. The Thunder comeback was fueled when the Blazers threw away two passes and Damian Lillard had a shot blocked.
The Blazers (25-35) finally sealed it when Lillard hit two free throws with 14.1 seconds left and Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook missed a wide open three-pointer with 8.4 seconds left.
"A good win to get at home,'' coach Terry Stotts said.
Lillard led the Blazers with 33 points and Nurkic, making his Moda Center debut, had 18 points, 12 rebounds, a career-high six assists and a career-high tying five blocks.
"Dame did what Dame does – and Jusuf was terrific,'' Stotts said. "(Jusuf) had a big impact on the game – rebounding, blocked shots, passing.''
Westbrook led Oklahoma City (35-26) with 45 points, seven rebounds and four assists and Enes Kanter came off the bench with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Oklahoma City led 85-81 heading into the fourth quarter after Lillard and Westbrook were involved in a shootout for much of the quarter. Lillard hit back-to-back three’s, which were sandwiched by a Westbrook three, setting the tone for a quarter when Westbrook scored 13 and Lillard 12.
Oklahoma City took a 60-57 halftime lead in incredible fashion when Taj Gibson heaved a 61-foot shot that swished at the buzzer. The shot was set up when Portland with 2.8 seconds inserted Pat Connaughton to inbound, and his three-quarter court pass went off the finger tips of Nurkic and into the hands of Gibson, who immediately threw a football-like shot at the rim.
Portland from the jump was as sharp and exhilarating as it had been all season and had the Moda Center crowd standing as it built a 20-8 lead behind some explosive drives from Lillard and nifty passing and footwork from Nurkic. But the Thunder scrapped back and was within 26-24 after Gibson spectacularly dunked a miss with 17.8 seconds left.
Aminu had 14 points and six rebounds and CJ McCollum had 18 points while Maurice Harkless added 10 points and nine rebounds.
Next up: Brooklyn at Blazers, 7 p.m. Saturday (KGW)