George has 37, Thunder hold off Blazers 111-109

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder had a six-game overall losing streak to the Trail Blazers, and they had lost their last eight at the Moda Center, a streak dating back to 2014.

Proclaiming a “new year, new team,” Paul George scored 37 points and the Thunder beat the Blazers 111-109 victory on Friday night.

“We came here, we told ourselves we need to change it — and we got it done,” George said.

Russell Westbrook added 31 points for the Thunder, who held off a furious last-minute rally by the Blazers that fell short. Damian Lillard led Portland with 23 points and eight assists.

“I was thinking about it when I landed yesterday,” Westbrook said about the long drought. “For me, this was personal. I wanted the streak to end.”

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George (R) dribbles away from Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard. – AP

The Thunder trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half but pulled in front late in the third quarter and pushed the lead to 107-97 with just over four minutes to go on a basket by Westbrook, who scored 20 points came in the second half.

CJ McCollum’s jumper got Portland within 109-105 and Lillard made two of three free throws to cut the deficit with 42.8 seconds left.

Lillard and McCollum both missed shots before George made free throws with 4.3 seconds left. The Blazers fell short on Al-Farouq Aminu’s basket at the buzzer.

“The Blazers are a tough team to play against and this is a tough place to play. To find a way to get a win here, since it’s been a while, sometimes you’ve got to do a lot of different things,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

Oklahoma City, sitting in second place in the Western Conference behind the Nuggets, has won three straight, including a 107-100 victory over the Lakers on Wednesday.

The Thunder rose to 12 games over .500 for the first time this season.

The Blazers had won two straight overall and were coming off a 113-108 overtime victory in Sacramento on New Year’s Day. The game against the Thunder was the first of a five-game homestand.

“You put yourself in that type of position, it comes down to — like I always say — you’ve got to be perfect. We needed to probably make every shot, get every stop,” Lillard said. “We just came up short. We had plenty of opportunity.”

George got off to a fast start with 13 points in the opening quarter, including a pair of free throws that pulled the Thunder into a 28-all tie.

The Blazers went up 47-39 after Jake Layman’s three-pointer, and extended the lead to 58-47 after Maurice Harkless’ three.

Jusuf Nurkic had 16 first-half points and Portland went into the break with a 62-57 lead.

The Thunder closed within 80-78 on Steven Adams’ layup then took an 83-82 lead on George’s three-pointer. Aminu answered with a three for the Blazers but George made another three and the Thunder went into the final period with a 93-87 lead.