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Thunder Squeeze Past Blazers, Pad West Lead

Kevin Durant helped the Thunder to a 15th win in 17 games with a 98-95 victory over Portland.

Kevin Durant helped the Thunder to a 15th win in 17 games with a 98-95 victory over Portland.

The Oklahoma City Thunder increased its lead at the top of the Western Conference to four games Tuesday, defeating division rivals the Portland Trail Blazers 98-95 on the road.

The matchup between the Northwest Division’s best sides – and two of the three best teams in the Western Conference – proved to be a cagey affair that went wire to wire.

Portland opened up an 18-6 lead early in the first quarter and took control of the game, taking a 55-45 lead into the locker room at the end of the first half.

But Oklahoma City rallied in the second half to pull level before edging what proved to be the closest game between the rivals this season.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 36 points and 10 rebounds, his 18th double-double of the campaign. The five-time All-Star was just 2-of-9 in the fourth quarter though, and it was the Oklahoma City defense that saw the game out.

Thunder beat writer Anthony Slater at The Oklahoman later linked Durant’s poor fourth quarter to his extended playing time. Durant leads the league in minutes played this season, having clocked in 2,019 in 53 games.

The Thunder got a big performance from Jeremy Lamb of the bench. The guard scored 19 points and pulled down five boards. Meanwhile, Reggie Jackson shrugged off a 0-of-9 first half to go 7-of-10 after halftime, tallying 17 points, six rebounds and five assists on the night. Serge Ibaka chipped in with seven points, 11 rebounds – four on the offensive end – ad a pair of blocks.

Portland benefited from a well-rounded team performance, with six players scoring in double digits.

Nicolas Batum led the Blazers with 18 points, while Robin Lopez tallied 17 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks. Enjoying a turnaround season, Lopez has really been the Blazers’ secret weapon.

Damian Lillard had 16 points and seven dimes to go alongside 12 points and 12 boards from LaMarcus Aldridge, his 33rd double-double of the year.

But the All-Star pairing combined for just 1-of-17 shooting in the fourth quarter as the Blazers were outscored 18-15 in the final stanza. That proved the difference in the game.

The Blazers received bad news in the first quarter when backup big man Joel Freeland went down with a leg injury and was forced to leave the game. The Oregonian is reporting that Freeland will miss four-to-eight weeks with an MCL sprain.

The 98-95 final at the Moda Center saw the two sides split their four-game head-to-head series this season. The two sides will need to meet in the playoffs if they’re to gain separation this season, something that appears to be a very distinct possibility.

Vegas Impact

Oklahoma City (32-22-0 ATS) covered the spread (+1) for the second straight game and for the 12th time in 16 contests. That stretch is something bettors should be paying close attention to.

Portland (28-24-0 ATS) meanwhile failed to cover for the first time in four games. However, the Blazers have struggled to a 4-8-0 ATS record in their last 12 games.

The total (211) went under for the third straight game in the head-to-head series.

Oklahoma City (27-27-0) had seen the total go over in its previous three games. Having favored the over for so much of the season, Portland (32-19-1) has seen the total go under in seven of its last 11, a stretch which included one push.

In terms of the NBA futures, Oklahoma City remains the favorite to win the Western Conference with odds of 7/5. Portland (7/1) sits in a tie with the Golden State Warriors (7/1) in fourth place, behind the Thunder, San Antonio Spurs (4/1) and Los Angeles Clippers (13/2).

Oklahoma City (15/4) continues to sit narrowly behind the Miami Heat (9/4) and Indiana Pacers (11/4) in terms of NBA Championship odds.

Up Next

Portland (36-16, 17-10 road) will get no letup after Tuesday’s defeat. The Blazers head to Los Angeles to face the Clippers (36-18, 22-4 home) at Staples Center.

The Clippers have the third best home record in the Association, and with a win would erase the one-game gap between them and the Blazers before the All-Star break.

Doc Rivers’ side is a 7.5-point favorite heading into this one.

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Clippers odds for 02/12/2014

Having won 15 of its last 17, Oklahoma City (42-12, 19-9 road) will take Wednesday off before returning to action on Thursday in a nationally televised game against the Los Angeles Lakers (18-34, 8-15 home) at Staples Center.

You’ll find odds for that game here as soon as they’re available.

After Thursday’s game, the NBA will begin its 2014 All-Star Weekend festivities in New Orleans.

20140211_NBA_West_standingsFor a full list of today’s NBA odds, click here.

For the latest NBA futures odds, click here.

For the latest NBA team prop bets, click here.

For the latest NBA player prop bets, click here.

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