Tue, Mar 29, 2011 - Page 18 News List

NBA: Thunder roar past Blazers to secure berth in playoffs

TESTING VICORY:Russell Westbrook carried the Thunder with 28 points, while 40 points from Gerald Wallace were not enough to save Portland

Reuters and AP, OKLAHOMA CITY

The Oklahoma City Thunder secured a spot in the NBA playoffs on Sunday with a testing 99-90 win over division rivals Portland.

The Thunder went on a decisive 17-8 run over the final 6:18 of the fourth quarter, led by Russell Westbrook, who scored 11 of his 28 points in the blitz.

“Both teams really played as hard as they can play,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, “fighting through every possession.”

They also came up with a key defensive stand in the last minute when Kendrick Perkins blocked a shot by Gerald Wallace and Serge Ibaka blocked Andre Miller to preserve a four-point lead. Westbrook completed the sequence with a lay-up to stretch the advantage to six.

Kevin Durant struggled in the second half, going 0-for-8 from the field, but scored 21 points for the Thunder and had five blocked shots. Ibaka added 18 points.

“There was a time a few years back that if Kevin goes 0-for-8, there’s a good chance that we don’t win this game,” Brooks said. “Guys have to step up. There’s always going to be a different guy.”

Portland were unable to capitalize on Wallace’s sizzling 40-point performance, with LaMarcus Aldridge the only other Trail Blazer to reach double digits with 20 points.

“It wasn’t enough,” Wallace said. “I’d rather take the win than take the points.”

GRIZZLIES 111, SPURS 104

In Memphis, Tennessee, the Grizzlies strengthened their grip on a playoff spot with a win over the San Antonio Spurs in what could be a precursor to a possible postseason matchup.

Tony Allen and Zach Randolph had 23 points apiece for Memphis, who currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. If the Grizzlies earn the No. 8 seed, they will likely face the NBA-leading Spurs in the opening round of the playoffs.

LAKERS 102, HORNETS 84

In Los Angeles, the Lakers inched closer to the top of the overall NBA standings with a comfortable win over New Orleans.

Kobe Bryant scored 30 points, while Pau Gasol had 23 points and 16 rebounds as the Lakers made it 15 wins from 16 games.

The two-time defending NBA champions jumped to an 18-point lead in the first half and weathered the Hornets’ fourth-quarter rally to sweep the four-game season series with a possible first-round playoff opponent.

Carl Landry had a season-high 24 points and 10 rebounds in New Orleans’ second game without injured scoring leader David West.

HEAT 125, ROCKETS 119

Three Miami players reached 30 points and 10 rebounds as the Heat downed Houston in Miami.

LeBron James had 33 points and 10 rebounds, Chris Bosh added 31 points and 12 rebounds, while Dwyane Wade shook off a bruised tailbone to finish with 30 points and 11 boards as Miami made it eight wins in nine games.

It was the first time since February 1961 that three teammates reached the 30-point, 10-rebound double in regulation time in the same game. On that occasion, Oscar Robertson, Jack Twyman and Wayne Embry — Hall of Famers all — did it for the Cincinnati Royals in a loss to the Philadelphia Warriors.

Kevin Martin scored 29 points for the Rockets, who suffered their first defeat in six games.

MAVERICKS 91, SUNS 83

In Phoenix, Arizona, Dallas pulled out a victory over the Suns that may have dropped the curtains on the Suns’ hopes for a playoff berth.

Phoenix led most of the ugly game and it was tied at 83 with 1:37 to play. Jason Kidd sank a three-pointer from long range with 1:11 to go to make it 86-83 to the Mavericks. Channing Frye, scoreless and 0-for-4 shooting, inexplicably forced a three-point airball at the other end and Kidd responded with another three that put Dallas ahead 89-83 with 44 seconds to go.

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