Thunder Vs. Trail Blazers: Oklahoma City Pulls Out An OT Thriller

The Thunder made up a six-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation to beat Portland 111-107 in OT.

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Thunder Vs. Trail Blazers Final: OKC Wins 111-107 In OT

In a fast-paced back-and-forth game in Portland, the Oklahoma City Thunder pulled out one of their best victories of the season, a 111-107 OT win over the Trail Blazers.

The Thunder overcame a six-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation to force an extra period, although their comeback wasn't without controversy, as LaMarcus Aldridge's rejection of Kevin Durant's lay-up attempt in the game's final minute was called goaltending in what can only be construed as a late Christmas gift for Oklahoma City fans.

The game featured high-scoring efforts from three of the NBA's young stars, Aldridge, Durant and Westbrook, all of whom scored at least 28 points in a preview of what should be an incredibly tight competition for a spot in the 2012 Olympic team.

While Portland was able to control the pace of the game with Aldridge's low-post scoring ability, their inability to grab a crucial defensive rebound in the game's final seconds proved their undoing, as Aldridge's goal-tending call came after three offensive boards for the Thunder.

With less than 10 seconds left, Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan drew up a play that gave Nicolas Batum an open driving lane to the rim, only for Westbrook to make one of the great defensive plays of the year, reaching back across his body in mid-air to block Batum's lay-up attempt with time expiring.

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Thunder Vs. Trail Blazers Score: OKC Leads Portland 60-52 At Halftime

The Oklahoma City Thunder outscored the Portland Trail Blazers by 10 in the second quarter to grab a 60-52 halftime lead at the Rose Garden.

Kevin Durant scored 16 points in the first half to lead the Thunder going 7-13 from the field. Serge Ibaka added 10 points while Russell Westbrook finished with nine points and four assists. The Thunder were on target in the first half making 52 percent of their field goal attempts but allowed the Trail Blazers to hang around thanks to 11 first half turnovers.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored a game-high 17 points in the first half for Portland. Aldridge hit 8-10 shots from the field. Jamal Crawford got a rare start and added 11 points. Portland hit just under 48 percent of its field goal attempts but didn't help itself from the free throw line where they made just 3-9 shots in the first half.

For more on this game Thunder fans should check out Welcome To Loud City and Trail Blazers fans should stop by Blazersedge. For more news and analysis on the NBA head on over to SB Nation's NBA Basketball page.

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Should Fans Be Concerned About Oklahoma City's Recent Struggles?

Over at the Daily Oklahoman, Darnell Mayberry has a look about whether Oklahoma City's less than dominant play against top-tier Western competition should be a concern:

The difference this year is the Thunder is so darned talented it still wins on most nights even in spite of some serious flaws. But, as always, the most pertinent question remains is the team getting better in its preparation for what many expect to be a deep playoff run, or is it simply piling up wins and plowing along?

The Thunder is averaging only 1.5 more assists than turnovers. The 16.7 turnovers per game rank the Thunder 29th in the league and are a staggering 2.3 more than OKC forces. Additionally, only Sacramento has a worse assist-to-turnover rate than the Thunder's 1.09-to-1 ratio. The Thunder also ranks 26th in defensive rebounding, allowing 12.5 offensive boards per game, the fourth most in the league. And teams are shooting 7.6 more shots on average than the Thunder.

At 18-5, Oklahoma City has the NBA's best record through the first third of the condensed 2011-2012 season.

However, their +4.8 point differential, a far more representative number of how well the team has played, is only the sixth best in the league.

The Thunder have gone from lovable young underdogs to a Western Conference title favorite, a process which magnifies any mistakes the team makes.

Both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have received max contract extensions in the last two years, and as far they are finding out, increased expectations are one of the prices of NBA stardom.

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