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The Blazers’ Most Important Win of the Season

Friday, February 27, 2015

 

BLAZERS 115, THUNDER 112

Forget emotional victories. This one was concrete. 

In holding off the Thunder, Friday in Portland, the Trail Blazers won their most consequential game of the season. The 115-112 victory gave Portland a significant leg up in the race for the Northwest Division crown, as well assuring the Blazers win the season series and subsequent tiebreaker.

Indeed, Friday's win mattered more than most.

The Blazers came from 13 points down in the fourth quarter, and won by the skin of their teeth. In a game in which Russell Westbrook was absolutely transcendent, the Blazers dodged numerous bullets, particularly when they sent Westbrook to the line in the final seconds on a needless foul. 

But after amassing a triple-double and having gone to overtime the day before, Westbrook finally ran out of gas. He missed the critical free throw, along with a number of shots down the stretch. Indeed, he is human.

 

 

The triple-double--40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists--was Westbrook's third in as many games. He is just the third player in the last 25 years to accomplish such a feat.

And while Westbrook got some help, most notably Mitch McGary's unexpected 20 points and nine rebounds the Blazers attack was more balanced.

Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge each had 29 points for the Trail Blazers. Aldridge, along with the newly acquired Arron Afflalo, carried Portland in a forth quarter in which Portland scored a whopping 37 points.

But as much as this win means for the Blazers, it also shows them how far they've got to go to truly contend in the Western Conference. 

The Thunder were without three critical rotation players, two of whom start, one of whom is the NBA's reigning Most Valuable Player.

For now, though, the Blazers can take a moment to sigh and, at least for a moment, quit looking in their rear-view mirror. Oklahoma City's climb to surpass the Blazers in the Northwest Division just got a whole lot steeper.

A

LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge scrapped from tip-off to the final buzzer. He was guarded smartly and tenaciously by Serge Ibaka and fought for every one of his 29 points and 16 rebounds. On top of that, Aldridge added five assists, a steal and a block. It was one of his most complete performances of the year. And on a side note: for the second time this season Aldridge and Ibaka were involved in a technical foul drawing dust-up. Some bad blood could be brewing...

C+

Nicolas Batum
After putting together two of his best games of the season back-to-back, Batum followed up with a bit of a stinker. He redeemed himself in the second half, making 2-of-5 from distance. He finished with nine points, four boards and three assists.

C

Robin Lopez
Without bigs Stephen Adams and Enes Kanter the Thunder often went small, which left Lopez in the lurch. Rather than have him chase around littler guys, he ended up playing just 26 minutes, where he scored eight points and grabbed five boards.

C-

Wesley Matthews
A game after pouring in a season-high 31 points, Matthews was off the mark, Friday. He made just 2-of-13 shots from the field--both were three's. That he struggled makes a bit of sense, though, as he was tasked with chasing around the indomitable Westbrook for most of the evening.

A-

Damian Lillard
Lillard didn't make a whole lot of loud shots and his aim from distance was off, but he was nonetheless effective, pushing the ball and attacking the rim. He finished with 29 points, three boards and five assists.

A

Arron Afflalo
In his third game as a Trail Blazer Afflalo not only played significant minutes down the stretch, but made the most of them. Of his 18 points, 11 came in the fourth quarter. He showed grit, smarts and a forceful will.

KILLER TWEET:

 

Also, after being kicked or kneed by his own teammate in the final seconds, Westbrook appeared to have a dent in his cheekbone. Hard to expect him missing much time though. Instead, prepare for a fuming Russell Westbrook wearing a face mask:

 

 

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