It was really a no-lose situation tonight.
The tired Portland Trail Blazers fell behind early in Oklahoma City, gave their best effort to come back, but eventually lost by 16 to finish a long 2-5 road trip. Long gone is the lethargic, uncaring Blazers; this team never gave up, no matter how far behind they were, or how far down the bench they sit. At the end of a long road trip, the Blazers have nothing to be ashamed of, despite some issues with their defense and inside presence.
The Blazers were led by, believe it or not, Raymond Felton with 19 points, 7 assists and 2 steals. He received support from Jamal Crawford (23 points), Wesley Matthews (16 points, 4 steals), and LaMarcus Aldridge (a very tired-looking 16 points, 6 rebounds). Joel Przybilla added 6 points and 11 rebounds.
The first quarter wasn't very noteworthy. The Blazers looked tired, and couldn't hit a shot (6-23 shooting). Meanwhile, the rested and full-strength OKC couldn't miss. A late 10-0 run put them ahead, 31-15.
Not much more to discuss in the second quarter. OKC pushed the lead to 21, but missed some late FT's to help the Blazers stay within 15.
In the third, the Blazers quickly cut the lead to 12, only to balloon back to 17. Blazer turnovers and poor defense led to many open OKC shots. Raymond Felton helped keep the Blazers within shouting distance, but OKC kept pushing the lead. Crawford nailed a three at the end of the quarter to keep the Blazers within 14.
Jamal and Luke pulled the Blazers within 10 as the fourth quarter began. A beautiful pass to Nolan Smith gave Portland 10 straight points and cut the lead to 8. But James Harden hit 5 straight free throws to get the lead to 13. The teams played back and forth from there, with the Blazers spreading around the offense to keep the lead in the low double-digits. But there was no comeback in the cards tonight, as the Blazers fly home knowing they have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to be playoff-bound.
Check out the box score if you must, then stay tuned for Dave's recap. The Blazers now fly home to get two straight nights in their own beds, then a Tuesday date with the new-look Bucks in the Rose Garden. See you then. -- Tim