Posted January 03, 2012 on AP on Fox
Despite each suffering the first loss of the season in their most recent game, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers seem poised to take the Northwest Division race down to the wire. After uncharacteristic performances, each look to bounce back Tuesday night when Oklahoma City hosts Portland in the first of four meetings. Kevin Durant said the Thunder (5-1) came out flat in their 100-87 loss at Dallas on Monday. Oklahoma City came in averaging 102.0 points, and it hadn't scored that few points in a regular season game since falling 90-87 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 27. ''We didn't have any energy from the beginning,'' said Durant, who scored a game-high 27 points. ''We need energy. It changes the whole game. We need to play with more effort. Everybody looks to me so I've got to start the game better.'' The Thunder shot a season-low 40.3 percent, though coach Scott Brooks isn't ready to panic because of one sub-par game. "(Losing) one game out of six isn't the end of the world,'' Brooks said. ''They played much better than us throughout. It wasn't our night. They shot better than us, and we missed shots we normally make.'' Portland didn't fare much better in its loss, committing 21 turnovers in a 93-88 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. The Blazers (3-1) averaged 106.3 points in their first three games. Coach Nate McMillan said Portland played too individualistic at times, especially through the first three quarters when it fell behind by 17 and couldn't recover. "Offensively, we did not execute," McMillan told the team's official website. "In the fourth quarter we started to get our spacing and playing together and we ended up having a big quarter. "We are trying to win big-time basketball here and it is going to take a total commitment from everybody on the team." The Blazers have turned the ball over at an alarming rate the past two games, a big concern for McMillian with solid teams like the Thunder and Lakers on Thursday coming up on the schedule. "We are turning the ball over like crazy," McMillan said. "Forty-six turnovers in the last two games. We want to play fast but we do not want to play in a hurry. You can't win games turning the ball over 21 times." Jamal Crawford scored a team-high 23 points off the bench after netting 22 in a win over Denver on Thursday. The offseason acquisition scored 18 points combined in his first two games. "I am just getting more comfortable," Crawford said. "The more aggressive I am not just shooting the ball but making plays should help the team." Portland seeks to spoil Oklahoma City's bid to win its first four home games since beginning 9-0 in 2004, when the franchise was the Seattle SuperSonics. The Thunder have won the last two meetings at home. Russell Westbrook scored 36 points and Durant added 34 in a 110-108 win Nov. 12, 2010, and Westbrook scored 28 in a 99-90 victory March 27. The Blazers won the most recent overall meeting 98-91 on April 1, as LaMarcus Aldridge scored 32 points to help end Portland's three-game skid in the series.
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