It was a playoff-like atmosphere on Thursday night at the Moda Center, as the Oklahoma City Thunder (40-25) took a 129-121 overtime victory over the Portland Trail Blazers (39-26). In a contentious game that featured 23 lead changes and 16 ties, Russell Westbrook dropped 37 points (14/28 FG, 5/8 3P) — including eight points in overtime — to lead the Thunder to victory. Paul George added 32 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, and three steals, helping OKC survive a season-high 51 points from Damian Lillard.
The win completes the season sweep for the Thunder, and moves OKC into sole possession of third place in the Western Conference. Portland falls to fifth (behind Houston) with the loss. The Thunder return to action tomorrow night (later tonight, I guess) in Los Angeles, taking on the Clippers (37-29) at 9:30 PM CST on Fox Sports Oklahoma.
Overtime. The Thunder outscored Portland 16-8 in overtime, blowing it open with an 8-0 run after allowing the Blazers to score the first basket of the extra frame. OKC shot 57 percent in OT, holding Portland to a 22.2 percent clip. Westbrook was especially deadly when it mattered most, scoring eight of his 37 points in overtime to help put the game away.
Russell. Westbrook turned in a vintage performance from an emotional standpoint, as he routinely talked trash, taunted the fans, picked up a Flagrant 1 for body checking Jusuf Nurkic, and rocked a ridiculous amount of babies. The on-court production was also something to behold, as Russ dropped 37 points (14/28 FG, 5/8 3P), seven rebounds, and three assists — his fourth 36+ point scoring effort since the All-Star break. He turned it over eight times — the last of which gave the Blazers a chance to win at the end of regulation — but the former MVP was a big catalyst in this one. He seemed to thrive in front of a raucous Portland crowd that booed him every time he touched the basketball.
PG13. George looked more comfortable than he did on Tuesday, posting a stat line of 32 points (7/23 FG, 1/9 3P), 14 rebounds, six assists, and three steals. Though he struggled from beyond the arc, he was aggressive — resulting in 17-of-20 shooting from the free throw line. The 20 attempts from the charity stripe is a new career-high, and he was a team-best +19 on the night. The Kensington Kinesio tape on his shoulder didn’t stop him from making a big impact in a game OKC needed to win.
The End of Regulation. With the Thunder clinging to a 113-111 lead with 4.4 seconds remaining, Nurkic was able to gather an offensive rebound before being fouled on the floor by Jerami Grant — sending him to the line for two shots. He and George exchanged some words immediately after the call, followed by a gentle headbutt from Nurkic, resulting in double-technicals and Nurkic’s ejection for his second technical of the night.
With Nurkic unavailable to shoot the free throws, Billy Donovan chose Skal Labissiere to come in cold and take the shots. After missing the first, he intentionally missed the second — which was corralled by Westbrook, seemingly ending the game. However, Markieff Morris was called for a loose ball foul on Al Farouq-Aminu after the shot, sending Aminu to the line for two where he tied it and ultimately sent the game to overtime. Very questionable call that nearly cost the Thunder dearly — though, Portland not having Nurkic in overtime was certainly a boost.
Points in the Paint. The Blazers dominated OKC in the paint in the first three matchups of the season, but that wasn’t the case tonight. The Thunder outscored Portland 70-48 down low, and held a 28-16 advantage in second-chance points.
Double-Figures. Westbrook and George combined for 69 points in a very nice combined effort for the duo, and they were joined in double-figures by Grant (14), Dennis Schroder (14), and Steven Adams (12).
Dame Time. Lillard was sublime, scoring 51 points on 15-of-28 shooting from the floor. He shot just 3-of-10 from long range, but he put a lot of pressure on the OKC defense by getting to the line frequently — shooting 18-of-20 from the stripe. He and Westbrook went back-and-forth in a budding rivalry that always entertains.
Thunder Defense. The struggling Thunder defense was improved on Thursday night, holding the Blazers to 39 percent shooting from the floor, 22 percent from long range, and forced Portland into 14 turnovers. Yes, Dame went for 51. That part wasn’t great. But they held the Blazers to 121 in an overtime game two days after allowing Minnesota to drop 131 in four quarters. It was an improvement.