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Blazers, Thunder level series, Magic 3-0

Published:Monday | April 26, 2010 | 12:00 AM

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP):

Brandon Roy made a surprising return from knee surgery as the Portland Trail Blazers evened their NBA Western Conference first-round play-off series with the Phoenix Suns at two games apiece with a 96-87 victory on Saturday night.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 31 points and 11 rebounds for the Blazers, who unexpectedly activated Roy shortly before the game, eight days after he had arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee.

Roy didn't start and played a relatively quiet 26 minutes, finishing with 10 points, but hit a key three-pointer with 4:55 left that gave Portland an 85-79 lead and swung the momentum of a close game.

Amare Stoudemire led the Suns with 26 points. The series returns to Phoenix today.

In Oklahoma City, the hosts squared their series with Los Angeles at 2-2, following a 110-89 victory.

Kevin Durant scored 22 points and Russell Westbrook added 18 points and eight assists for the Thunder, who again capitalised on a significant edge at the foul line and on the boards, despite the presence of the Lakers' towering tandem of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

Oklahoma City never trailed after the opening five minutes and led by double digits for the final three quarters in a thorough dismantling of the defending NBA champions.

Bynum had 13 points and 10 rebounds and Gasol also scored 13 to lead Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant finished with only 12 points.

Game five is tomorrow in Los Angeles.

In Charlotte, Orlando overcame Dwight Howard's continuing foul trouble to beat Charlotte 90-86 and take a commanding 3-0 series lead.

Howard played only 26 minutes and fouled out with 3:32 left. But Jameer Nelson had 32 points, including a key late basket and backup centre Marcin Gortat hit two free throws with 12 seconds left to put it away.

Key three-pointer

Charlotte's Stephen Jackson scored 19 points, but was six of 18 from the field and missed a key three-pointer in the final minute.

For the third straight game, Howard played about half the game, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks, but the Magic can clinch a spot in the second round with a victory here in game four today.

In Milwaukee, John Salmons scored 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting and Milwaukee never let up after a hot start to beat Atlanta 107-89 and close the series deficit to 2-1.

The Bucks shot 68 percent in the first quarter and 51 percent for the game and were never seriously threatened after building a 19-point, first-half lead.

Veteran Kurt Thomas had eight points, 13 rebounds and rookie Brandon Jennings added 13 points for Milwaukee.

Joe Johnson scored 25 for Atlanta. Game four is today in Milwaukee.