OKLAHOMA CITY – A short, hectic season with little preparation is sure to have its fair share of ups and downs.
After starting the season 5-0, the OKC Thunder lost back-to-back games with a 103-93 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Thunder's Kevin Durant had trouble getting into much of a rhythm against one of the more physical defenses in the league.
Durant shot just 8-of-26 in the game (1-of-7 from 3) and was worn down a bit from some tough defensive matchups against the likes of Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum. Durant finished with 19 points.
Westbrook actually posted one of his better games of the season with 22 points, eight assists and six boards.
Oklahoma City held several early leads, including a six-point lead as Russell Westbrook drained a jumper with 4:39 remaining in the first quarter, and a five-point lead at the end of the first.
But Portland chipped away at the lead and cut it down to two by halftime, and twenty seconds into the second half had the game tied on a pair of free throws from Gerald Wallace.
The Blazers gained the lead for good with a 6-0 run midway through the third quarter and led by as many as a dozen.
One bright spot for OKC was James Harden, who got the start for Thabo Sefolosha. Sefolosha sat with flu-like symptoms that he also experienced the night before at the loss in Dallas.
Harden played 40 minutes and finished with 23 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the Trail Blazers with 30 points and eight boards. Aldridge and OKC's Kendrick Perkins got into a shoving match toward the end of the game which earned them both technicals.
Portland (4-1) is off to a surprising start, looking impressive in wins against several playoff teams despite losing the face of the franchise, Brandon Roy, over the offseason.
With their win, the Trail Blazers jump to the top of the Northwest Division standings over the Thunder in the young season.
The bad news for OKC (5-2) is that it will have to face Portland three more times during the season because the two are division opponents.
But for now, the Thunder will have a much-needed two-day break before taking on the vaunted back-to-back-to-back challenge that comes with the compacted season.
OKC will face Houston twice, as well as the San Antonio Spurs, all in a three-day span.
The first of those games will take place at home against Houston on Friday, with tipoff set for 7 p.m.