The Oklahoma City Thunder (29-18) won their third straight game on Tuesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, defeating the Portland Trail Blazers (29-20) by a final score of 123-114. The Thunder were fueled by monster performances from Paul George and Russell Westbrook, and yet another step forward by second-year guard Terrance Ferguson. George led the way for OKC with 36 points (10-21 FG, 3-6 3P, 13-15 FT), eight rebounds, four assists, five steals, and a block. Westbrook recorded his 14th triple-double of the season, producing 29 points (9-20 FG, 1-4 3P, 10-12 FT), 14 assists, 10 rebounds, and a steal.
Portland’s offense struggled out of the gate, shooting 37.5 percent from the field and misfiring on all six of their three-point attempts. Billy Donovan tinkered with his first quarter rotation, inserting Dennis Schroder for George at the six-minute mark, allowing Ferguson a little more run with the starters. The Thunder couldn’t take advantage of Portland’s struggles as the score was tied at 25 after one.
Westbrook’s second quarter was impressive with a handful of assists, particularly when he passed up a wide-open three for a George mid-range shot over Blazers guard Seth Curry. George was the high-man for OKC, scoring 20 points (6-11 FG, 3-5 3P, 5-6 FT) with an emphatic block on Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu in transition to close out the quarter. The Thunder surprisingly out-shot the Blazers from deep in the first half, going 8-of-14 from beyond the arc, in comparison to Portland’s 3-of-17. The Thunder led 62-55 at the break.
Blazers guard CJ McCollum caught fire in the third quarter, scoring 21 points, including 5-of-6 from downtown. Ferguson’s confident play of late was on full display in the quarter — first drilling a deep three with the shot clock approaching zero and later creating for himself off the dribble before pulling up on the baseline. The Thunder clung to a 93-87 lead heading to the final frame.
The fourth quarter was filled with plenty of fireworks, starting with OKC pushing their lead to 12 after Schroder’s pull-up jumper at the 9:42 mark. Portland immediately answered with a 7-0 run, trimming their deficit to five after Damian Lillard’s layup with 8:10 to go. McCollum’s three-pointer brought the Blazers to within three with 5:08 left, but the Thunder answered with consecutive pairs of free-throws by Westbrook and George. George later recorded his third steal of the quarter and finished the layup in transition over Jusuf Nurkic, putting the Thunder up nine with 2:16 to go.
Westbrook added the finishing touches on the Thunder victory with two nuclear dunks in the closing minutes. Big win for the Thunder as they maintain their position as the third seed in the Western Conference.
MVPG: We’re running out of things to say at this point regarding George’s stellar play this season. These sort of box scores are becoming the norm as he continues to build his case for MVP and/or Defensive Player of the Year. His three steals in the fourth quarter were the turning point for OKC tonight.
Triple-Double King: Westbrook appears to always have just a little extra gear whenever he plays Portland and tonight was no different. Russ was in control for the entirety of the game, creating easy offense by frequently beating his defender off the dribble and attacking the paint. In total, Westbrook recorded 29 points with an efficient 10-of-12 from the line, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds. It felt like it had been a while since we last saw Westbrook proclaim to the world that he still has hops. A classic Westbrook performance for the NBA TV national audience.
Ferg With Confidence: The Tulsa native continued his steady play tonight, scoring 14 points (6-8 FG, 2-4 3P) and swiping four steals. Ferguson was able to weather the storm for OKC in the third quarter, scoring seven crucial points while McCollum was going bonkers. He has officially given Sam Presti and Donovan a problem they’d love to have in deciding the Thunder’s starting two-guard when (if?) Andre Roberson returns from his patella injury.
Three-Point Shooting: I wouldn’t get used to this Thunder fans, but the Thunder held a wide-margin in three-point shooting throughout against the usual marksmen Blazers. Oklahoma City shot 11-of-23 from deep, while Portland struggled by going 10-of-36. Interestingly enough, everyone outside of McCollum for the Blazers shot 3-of-24 from deep. The Thunder were defending well, but the Blazers certainly missed some good looks.
Nurkic Vs Kiwi: Nurkic’s effort on both ends of the glass kept Portland in the game despite their shooting struggles. In total, Nurkic recorded 15 rebounds, seven of which were offensive. Nurkic’s jump shot was smooth as he didn’t hesitate on multiple looks outside of the paint, scoring 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting. Adams had his hands full tonight, but that didn’t stop him from chipping in with 14 points (7-of-12 FG), eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block.