Melo Ejected, Thunder Falls in Portland
The Thunder took an uninspired effort to Portland for Sunday night’s game with the Trail Blazers, but still almost found a way to win it late. Despite a Carmelo Anthony ejection, a Russell Westbrook off night, superb Blazers performances, and more — there was an opportunity for Oklahoma City in the final minute.
In the end, it was never the Thunder’s night.
OKC falls to 4-5 after Portland’s 103-99 victory, and will get one day off before Tuesday night’s game in Sacramento. Let’s dive into the strange Thunder loss.
The Final 2 Minutes
There’s a lot to unpack from tonight, but the final two minutes in Portland were downright bonkers. The Blazers led 90-88 after Westbrook hit a jumper at 1:57, and all hell proceeded to break loose.
CJ McCollum hit a three. Paul George answered with one of his own.
McCollum hit another three. Westbrook answered with a deep ball.
Damian Lillard then converted on a drive to the bucket, giving Portland a 98-94 lead with 0:29 remaining.
On the Thunder’s next possession, Westbrook drew a foul call while shooting a three — and went to the line with a chance to trim the Blazers’ lead to one with 20 seconds to go.
He missed all three.
While the Thunder did have some lesser opportunities to scrap back after this sequence of events, the missed free throws were a back breaker for OKC. Westbrook looked about as uncomfortable as I can remember seeing him at the line, and his early season struggles from the stripe are now very real. He was 2/7 against the Blazers, with those three misses in particular being the headline.
Not what Thunder fans have come to expect from a career 82 percent free throw shooter. Sour ending to a rough night for the reigning MVP.
I’m not a fan of writing about the officials, so to put it simply — there were some very questionable calls all night. None more controversial than Carmelo Anthony’s puzzling ejection in the third quarter.
What led to the decision:
That’s it. From and-one to ejected.
The offensive foul is at least defendable — that elbow was no joke — but the Flagrant 2 and subsequent ejection was bizarre. The Thunder’s attitude was poor all night and there were points it felt like Westbrook was trying to get booted — but this is some next level stuff. It also came at a time when Melo appeared to be hitting a rhythm for a team in desperate need of it.
Will be interesting to see if the league addresses it, though crew chief Rodney Mott explained Melo’s collision with Nurkic as “unnatural and excessive.”
Ray Felton Revenge Game
I haven’t kept up with much of Raymond Felton’s career, but at some point he must have done something to the fans in Portland. He was mercilessly booed every time he touched the basketball — seriously, every time — and he responded with easily his best game in a Thunder uniform.
Felton scored 15 points on 7/11 shooting, and provided a much-needed spark in the immediate aftermath of Carmelo Anthony’s ejection. It felt like the wheels were about to completely come off, but he stabilized the ship and kept OKC within striking distance. Really good effort from Felton, and he played all the way down the stretch in a close one. That +16 in 24 minutes is a bright spot in an ugly night.
- The Thunder starters were bad, and all of them finished with negative plus-minus marks for the evening. The Thunder bench, however, showed up — Felton was a +16, Alex Abrines had a +11, Jerami Grant was +10 and Patrick Patterson was +6. For as bad as the night got at times, the reserves kept the Thunder alive. Stars have to be better.
- George: 27 pts, 5 reb, 3 stl, 10/21 FG
- Russ: 25 pts, 9 ast, 6 reb, 10/25 FG
- Melo: 15 pts, 6 reb, 5/10 FG
- Damian Lillard was absolutely elite, finishing with 36 points and 13 assists on 10/18 shooting. He outplayed Westbrook and made a number of big plays down the stretch.
- Steven Adams was worked by Jusuf Nurkic, who put up 25 points and 8 rebounds. Adams finished with 4 points and 4 rebounds in 31 minutes — his worst performance of the season thus far.
- The Thunder took 33 three-pointers — hitting 11 of them. Westbrook had a vintage night on his attempts from deep, going 3/10.
- Jerami Grant had 8 points and 7 rebounds in 28 minutes. I still think Patterson should see more minutes, but Grant was good tonight.
- Portland won the rebounding battle 44-32, and the Thunder has yet to win a game where its been out-rebounded.
- The Thunder was whistled for 27 fouls, compared to Portland’s 20. The Trail Blazers took 28 free throws, with the Thunder taking 15.
- OKC forced 23 turnovers and got 25 points off of them.
Russell Westbrook on the officiating. Fine likely incoming. Via Brett Dawson. (NSFW)