The Portland Trail Blazers took a commanding 3-1 series lead on Sunday night in Oklahoma City, beating the Thunder by a final score of 111-98 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. In what felt reminiscent to Game 2 in Portland, the Thunder were unable to close the second quarter on a high note, instead allowing Portland to regain the lead before the break. The Thunder struggled in the third quarter, with Portland pushing their advantage to 19 and never looking back. CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard led the way for Portland with 27 and 24 points, with Paul George the high-man for OKC with 32 points, albeit on an inefficient 8-of-21 from the floor. Russell Westbrook shot just 5-of-21 in the loss, drawing some groans out of the home crowd as he finished with 14 points.
It took all of two and a half minutes before Billy Donovan was called for a technical when he strutted out to halfcourt complaining to the officials after a noncall on Steven Adams’ post up on Enes Kanter. The Thunder used that energy to compile an 11-2 scoring run after Westbrook’s pull up jumper over Lillard put the Thunder up five midway through the quarter. OKC did a good job of defending Lillard in the first — holding him to 0/4 from the floor, but the Blazers led 26-24 after one.
Paul George was forced to sit for essentially the entire second quarter after picking up his third foul on a questionable charge in transition against Seth Curry at the 9:13 mark. With the Thunder needing a boost from their bench, Portland’s favorite antagonist, Raymond Felton, answered the call. Felton scored eight points in the second on a perfect 3-of-3 from the field, including 2-of-2 from deep. Westbrook’s three over Lillard capped an 11-2 scoring run, putting the Thunder up seven with 2:29 left in the half, but Portland was far from shook. Lillard’s first bucket didn’t come until the 1:14 mark, with his step back three on Portland’s next trip down putting the Blazers up one. Portland put the finishing touches on their 11-0 run to close the second when Lillard found Al-Farouq Aminu in the corner for an open three in the final seconds. Portland led 50-46 at the break.
Similar to Game Two, the Blazers used a dominant third quarter to pull away. The Thunder manufactured some quality looks from deep, they just weren’t falling for them in the quarter. Portland, meanwhile, took advantage of their usual sharpshooting, led by Lillard’s 15 points in the quarter. The Blazers shot 5/11 from deep in the quarter, all while holding the Thunder to 31.8 percent from the floor. Portland led by as many as 19 points before Oklahoma City closed the quarter on an 8-0 run following George’s step back three. The Thunder trailed 68-79 after three.
A pair of George free throws brought the Thunder to within single digits, but Portland immediately responded with an 8-0 after two separate McCollum triples, pushing the Blazers advantage to 17. Jerami Grant finished the transition dunk after blocking Lillard at the rim, cutting the Thunder deficit to seven with 1:31 to go, but the Thunder couldn’t string together the necessary stops to pull off yet another double digit comeback. The Thunder head to Portland with their backs against the wall, down 3-1 in a must-win Game 5 on Tuesday night.
Westbrook: After his three-pointer over Lillard put the Thunder up seven with 2:29 to go in the second quarter, The Brodie went 0-of-10 from the floor for the remainder of the game. Westbrook didn’t record his first point in the second half until his free throw at the 1:55 mark of the fourth quarter. As illustrated in Game 2, it’s next to impossible for the Thunder to win playoff games when he is this ineffective. In total, Russ finished with 14 points (5/21 FG, 2/7 3P, 2/4 FT), nine rebounds, seven assists, and three turnovers. The former MVP can’t afford another dud for the remainder of the series.
PG: George got out to a hot start, scoring seven points in the opening quarter before having to sit for the entire second after picking up his third foul. PG has been able to live in the paint in this series, which was certainly expected with Portland being without Jusuf Nurkic. George led all scorers tonight with 32 points, but it came on an inefficient 8-of-21 from the floor.
Ferguson: The second-year man did a much better job of defending without fouling tonight, the first game in this series where Ferguson didn’t find himself with early foul trouble. Unfortunately for the Thunder, Ferguson was unable to take advantage of his extended minutes tonight, going 1-of-6 from beyond the arc. Ferguson had plenty of open looks tonight, he just couldn’t knock them down when OKC needed him most.
Can Play Kanter: Thunder supporters have been well-versed over the years in the defensive shortcomings of their former backup big man. Many expected the Thunder to attack Kanter at will throughout the series, but he hasn’t been nearly the sieve that he was thought to be. Kanter was crucial in Portland’s surge to close the second quarter, forcing a steal on Adams and rejecting Westbrook at the rim. Kanter continues to be a force on the glass as he finds himself on the upper-hand of his matchup against his former ‘Stache Bro.