Thunder Stumbles in Portland, Falls on the Road to Blazers
The Trail Blazers locked-up the season-series against the Thunder on Saturday night in Portland, riding 28 points from CJ McCollum and 20 more from Damian Lillard to score a 108-100 victory in front of a sellout crowd at the Moda Center. OKC had a chance to move into third place in the Western Conference with a win — instead, the team returns home having slid back into seventh place for the time being.
The Thunder got off to a decent start, shooting 57 percent in the first quarter to take a 28-25 lead into the second. The offense ran cold from there, as Russell Westbrook and Paul George struggled from the floor for the remainder of the game. The two men combined to shoot 20-of-50 and just 1-of-12 from downtown — not necessarily a winning formula against a Portland team that entered on a five-game winning streak. With Carmelo Anthony sitting for rest, OKC got very little out of Steven Adams — the big man contributed 12 points and 7 rebounds on 4-of-9 from the field.
Despite the all-around poor play, the Thunder had a number of opportunities throughout but never found a way to take advantage. OKC trimmed Portland’s lead to just four with 1:32 to go — but then turned the ball over and went 0-for-3 from the field before an inconsequential Westbrook dunk with four seconds remaining. By then, it was already out of reach.
The loss drops the Thunder to 37-28 ahead of Tuesday’s match-up with the Houston Rockets. Now for some quick notes on the loss.
22.2: The Thunder shot 6/27 from downtown — just 22.2 percent.
66.7: OKC was 14/21 from the free throw line, 66.7 percent.
-7: The Blazers won 47-40 on the glass, including a 14-9 advantage on the offensive boards.
-9: Portland’s bench outscored the OKC reserves 31-22.
18 & 14: There were 18 lead changes and 14 ties.
Russell Westbrook gets a high-flying block on Damian Lillard in the third quarter:
Paul George gets the dunk in traffic — stared down the official afterward:
Russ & PG: Russell Westbrook and Paul George had an interesting night in Portland. Westbrook finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists but shot just 12/31. George contributed 21 points and 7 rebounds but shot 0/7 from deep in a continued downward slide in that department. The two superstars shot just 11/28 in the second half, never being able to get things clicking all the way. Frustrating night for the duo.
Starting Five. With Carmelo Anthony sitting due to rest, Billy Donovan used a starting five of Russell Westbrook, Josh Huestis, Paul George, Patrick Patterson, and Steven Adams. Patterson played well as Melo’s replacement, scoring 12 points on 5/8 shooting. I maintain the belief that he’s by far the best option at power forward.
Brewer Debut. Corey Brewer made his OKC debut tonight — just hours after making his deal official. He ended up logging 12 minutes and contributed 2 steals. He was a -14 in the 12 minutes, which isn’t, like, great. He’s certainly active and will hopefully grow more comfortable after he settles in with the new team. However — and this feels important — Josh Huestis was a +2 in his 23 minutes of action. Let’s not go overboard on this Brewer stuff just yet.
Jerami. Solid night for Jerami Grant, who scored 13 points on 6/9 shooting. Cobbling together Melo’s minutes through a blend of Grant and Patterson wasn’t the worst thing I’d ever seen.
Officiating. I’m not the type to bash officials — but the growing divide between referees and the Thunder is truly becoming a thing. Whether it’s being overblown or not, perception is reality and right now it just feels like OKC consistently ends up on the unfavorable end of questionable whistles. It breeds frustration, which leads to poor play, and can start to unravel most everything the Thunder wants to do. Every team must learn to deal with the officiating on a game-to-game basis but it’s becoming particularly problematic for OKC right now. Too much head-hanging and negative body language.
The Other Guys. Four Blazers scored in double-figures: McCollum (28), Lillard (20), Evan Turner (17), and Zach Collins (12).