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Originally published December 31, 2013 at 9:02 PM | Page modified December 31, 2013 at 9:50 PM

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Blazers edge Thunder in battle of Western Conference powers

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 points and had 14 rebounds to lead Portland.


The Associated Press

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OKLAHOMA CITY — After dropping two straight games on last-second shots, the Portland Trail Blazers were determined not to let it happen again on Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points and 14 rebounds and the Blazers rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to beat the Thunder 98-94 in a showdown of Western Conference heavyweights.

Damian Lillard added 21 points and 11 assists and hit a pair of clinching free throws with 2.1 seconds left for Portland, which beat Oklahoma City for the second time in December. Portland (25-7) snapped a two-game losing streak but still trails Oklahoma City (25-6) by a half-game in the Northwest Division standings.

Before Tuesday, Portland had lost consecutive games for the first time all season, falling to Miami on Saturday and at New Orleans on Monday. But this time, it was the Blazers who made the winning plays in the final moments.

“It was huge,” Lillard said. “The better teams in the league, a lot of times, they don’t lose two in a row. They hardly ever lose three in a row. We knew that that’s not something we wanted to deal with, losing three in a row, especially after two heartbreakers.”

Kevin Durant had 37 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder, who had won 20 of the last 22 games before Tuesday. But Durant managed only one point in the fourth quarter and missed an 11-foot jumper that would have tied the game in the final seconds.

“My teammates told me if I was contested that I probably would have made the shot,” Durant said. “I’m sure that’s going to replay in my mind for the rest of the night. I wish I could have hit that for my team.”

Around the league

• Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds and the Atlanta Hawks rallied for a 92-91 win over the host Boston Celtics.

Ex-Gonzaga forward Kelly Olynyk scored a career-high 21 points as part of a Boston reserve group that scored 56.

• Brandon Knight had 37 points and eight rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks past the Los Angeles Lakers, 94-79.

Paul George scored 21 points, Roy Hibbert added 19 and the Indiana Pacers beat the visiting Cavaliers 91-76, their eighth straight win over Cleveland and fifth straight overall. Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving injured his left knee during the loss and was scheduled to have an MRI on Wednesday.

• The Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers are engaged in advanced talks for a trade that would bring Pau Gasol to the Cavs in exchange for Andrew Bynum and other considerations, a league source confirmed Tuesday.

The Akron Beacon Journal contributed to this report.



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