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Blazers knock Warriors out of first place

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Damian Lillard scored 44 points on Wednesday night. AFP

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Damian Lillard scored 44 points as the Portland Trail Blazers won a 123-117 shootout with the visiting Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night at Moda Center.

Despite getting 50 points from Kevin Durant, the defending champion Warriors fell out of first place in the Western Conference heading into the All-Star break. The Houston Rockets (44-13) are a half-game ahead of Golden State (44-14).

CJ McCollum added 29 points, and Jusuf Nurkic contributed 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Trail Blazers (32-26). Portland won for the 10th time in 11 home contests.

The Warriors had beaten Portland seven straight times. Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry each scored 17 points, and Draymond Green collected 16 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for Golden State, which saw the end of a three-game win streak.

Lillard had 20 points to spark Portland to a 63-51 lead at halftime. Durant had 20 for Golden State at the break. The difference was at the 3-point stripe, with the Blazers 7 of 18 and the Warriors only 3 of 15.

The Warriors cut the deficit to 74-73 on back-to-back four-point plays by Durant early in the third quarter. The Blazers took a 92-87 lead into the final period.

Portland led 99-91 with eight minutes left, but the Warriors scored eight straight points to tie it. The Blazers answered with a 10-2 run to go ahead 109-101 with 5:03 to play.

Durant sank consecutive 3-pointers to close it to 114-111 with 2:31 to go. McCollum answered with a trey to make it 117-111. Durant scored on a drive, then sank two free throws to cut it to 117-115 with 1:29 remaining.

Neither team scored again until Portland’s Evan Turner made a pair of foul shots with 18.9 seconds left for a 119-115 lead. Curry hit a pair at the line to trim it to 119-117 with 16.3 seconds on the clock.

Al-Farouq Aminu knocked down two at the line to push the Blazers’ edge to 121-117 with 9.1 ticks left. Lillard iced the game with two more free throws with 7.8 ticks left.

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