5 min read

Monday Bolts: 4.15.19

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps the Thunder’s Game 1 loss in Portland: “All game long, the game’s balance hung by what happened at the three-point line, and the Thunder trailed all night because of it. When Paul George buried a second chance three-pointer with 2:44 remaining, the Thunder was one tantalizingly point away from overcoming the Portland Trail Blazers’ advantage.  On the next possession, with his defender at the three-point line, Portland’s Damian Lillard returned the favor and drained a 31-foot, top of the key, three-pointer off the dribble. That bucket sparked a 7-2 closing run for the Blazers, snatching away the Thunder’s hope after George’s three-pointer has cut the lead to just one at 93-92. In these tight playoff games, a swing of missed opportunities on just a few possessions can be the difference between a win and a loss, and the Thunder came up empty on two straight possessions after Lillard’s three and then fumbled the ball away after a defensive rebound, while Portland scored on two free throws and then an Enes Kanter driving layup to create separation. George hit another three and Jerami Grant scored down low in the Thunder’s desperate scramble, but four Lillard free throws sealed a 104-99 loss for OKC in Game 1 of this first round series.”

Game 1 highlights:

Royce Young (ESPN) on why the Thunder will go only as far as Paul George can take them: “Some 50 minutes before tipoff, Paul George walked onto the floor at the Moda Center on Sunday with black tape canvasing both shoulders and picked up two basketballs. As is his pregame routine, standing on the baseline, he pounded both balls into the floor, shifting them between hands. He moved up, dribbling up to the 3-point line and back, and then flipped one to the side. He turned, looking at the basket, and took a 15-footer. It was, apparently, the first time George had shot a basketball in five days. Before Game 1, the last shot he took was the winner against the Houston Rockets the previous Tuesday. He entered Sunday’s game officially listed as questionable because of right shoulder soreness, but there was never really any question if he would play or not. He said as much after the team’s practice Friday, noting it’s the playoffs: You play through pain. But he certainly wasn’t himself. After averaging 38 points and hitting 45.9 percent from 3 on nearly 10 attempts against the Portland Trail Blazers during the regular season, George scored 26, including just 4 of 15 from 3, in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 104-99 loss in Game 1.”

Ben Golliver (WaPo) on old habits (and an old friend) costing OKC in Game 1: “Westbrook, a career 30 percent outside shooter in the playoffs, missed all four of his three-point attempts and both of his midrange looks. Paul George, playing through shoulder pain that left him questionable for Game 1, hit just 8 of 24 shots and 4 of 15 three-pointers. As a team, the Thunder shot an abysmal 5 for 33 from beyond the arc, a performance that recalled similar duds against the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz in the previous two postseasons. “I thought we got great looks all night,” George said. “For me, it’s just rhythm. Four days ago, I couldn’t even lift my shoulder. Fast-forward to today; it’s the first day I shot the ball. Tomorrow I’ll get shots up and get back in tune, and we’ll try to get the same shots we got tonight.” George’s questionable health is alarming, given the Thunder’s dependence on his scoring, but it is built to withstand a certain degree of perimeter futility. After all, Oklahoma City won 49 games despite ranking 22nd in three-point percentage and 17th in overall offense. But the Thunder can’t allow Kanter to win his matchup with Steven Adams inside.”

Berry Tramel (Oklahoman) on Enes Kanter getting revenge on the Thunder yesterday in Portland: “Enes Kanter tried to chat with Steven Adams. Knowing Kanter, there’s no chance it was trash talk. The international man of peace wants only to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. Kanter was just glad to see his old pal, his ‘Stache Brother for life. But Adams didn’t even look at Kanter. We don’t call him Stone Cold Steven Adams for nothing. Adams had on his game face. Kanter knew Adams wasn’t going to go Auld Lang Syne. So Kanter had no other option than just to play. And play he did. Kanter looked nothing like the weak link he was pegged to be in Portland’s lineup. The missing link was more like it. The Blazers, swept in back-to-back playoff series the previous two years, beat the Thunder 104-99 Sunday in the Moda Center, and the hero was Kanter.”

Johnny Flores Jr. (Yahoo Sports) on Enes Kanter feeling “blessed” after a big performance in the Game 1 win over OKC: “After a first-round playoff win against the Oklahoma City Thunder in which he posted 20 points and 18 rebounds, Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter said he was feeling blessed and for good reason, too. Speaking to reporters after the game, Kanter recalled his stint with the New York Knicks and his lack of playing time. “I was on the worst team in the league and I wasn’t even playing because they thought I was too old to play,” Kanter said. “With the situation and all the drama, it was so frustrating because all I just wanted to [do was] go out there and just win.” Kanter added, “A couple of days ago, I looked up in the mirror and I said ‘Man, I am blessed to just be here with an amazing organization and amazing teammates.’ They trust in me. It definitely feels amazing.”

Russ & PG — not worried:

Sam Amick (Athletic) on Steven Adams — the NBA’s most interesting man: “Yeah, I have nothing (on that topic; laughs). I didn’t even know that that was even a thing – the James Harden trade – before (he got there) because I don’t watch NBA. I don’t keep up with any of it. I was in America, in college (at Pitt) and stuff. But it just wasn’t – I just didn’t pay attention really. I didn’t give a shit. But I felt it afterwards. My number (in college) was actually 13 (which is also Harden’s number). That has always been like the family number. So when I came in, I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll just grab 13 and they’re like, ‘Ah, we don’t think you should because of…’ because they traded him, and I was like, ‘Oh, fair enough mate. Whatever. I’ll just go with No. 12.’ I was just chilling (back then). I never paid attention to the NBA anyway. Growing up, I’d hear about the super big names, LeBron, or Kobe, but I just wasn’t a part of it.”

Around the League: The Rockets took a 1-0 lead on Utah…. Milwaukee embarrassed the Pistons in Game 1…. Jimmy Butler and the Sixers aren’t worried after falling behind 0-1…. Takeaways from the first weekend of postseason action…. Don’t blame LeBron for missing the playoffs…. Adam Silver will continue to look at shortening the NBA season…. Inside the dark, daunting art of being an NBA point guard.