Westbrook on Lillard: He's Going to Do Exciting Things
The Portland Trail Blazers were down 85-83 to the Oklahoma City Thunder with eight seconds remaining in the game and the Trail Blazers had the ball. Off of an inbounds play, LaMarcus Aldridge received the ball at the top of the three-point line and Nicolas Batum crossed his path as if it was a fake handoff.
Aldridge kept the ball and took two dribbles inside to his left and shot up a 19-foot air-ball that ended up in the hands of Russell Westbrook who was fouled with 1.8 seconds left. He would go to the line and nail both free throws, defeating the Trail Blazers 87-83, ending their nine-game winning streak.
Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts said Aldridge had three options on that final play: A pass to Wesley Matthews, a handoff to Batum, or Aldridge taking it himself. Most thought Aldridge should have taken the slower Kendrick Perkins off the dribble all the way to the basket.
Aldridge explained why he didn't.
“I didn't think I had a clean handoff to Nic so I decided to go myself,” Aldridge said. “I'm not that comfortable driving to the basket on my left side. I didn't want to turn the ball over so I shot a shot that I shoot all the time. It felt good, but it wasn't even close.”
Batum said he told Aldridge during the timeout that if the handoff wasn't there cleanly, to keep it.
“I didn't want us to turn the ball over so I told him to keep the ball if he couldn't get it to me,” Batum said. “He made the right play. We got a shot. That's all we wanted.”
Aldridge said next time he's in that situation, he'll force the issue to his dominant side.
“Next time, I'll just force it to my right like [Amar'e] Stoudemire,” he said. “I had to learn and I'll do it differently on the next one.”
Kevin Durant led the Thunder (29-8) with 33 points on 12-for-21 from the field. Westbrook flirted with a triple-double posting numbers of 18 points, eight rebounds, and nine assist. DeAndre Liggins started for an injured Thabo Sefolosha and put in 11 points and nine rebounds.
Serge Ibaka sat out tonight's game with a chest contusion and Nick Collison started in his place.
Aldridge had a double-double with 33 points and 11 rebounds. Nicolas Batum contributed 21 points and seven rebounds. Damian Lillard had nine points and nine assist.
The Trail Blazers (20-17) shot 36 percent from field. As of late, there has been a theme of one Trail Blazer performing and the rest struggling. Beside from Aldridge's 15-of-26 night, the rest of the starters combined to shoot 13-of-46.
“We just didn't get it done,” Matthews said. “We should have had this game and we let it get away. It's frustrating.”
The Trail Blazers next opponent is another divisional game in the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday night.