Oklahoma City did what they needed to, easily holding off the Portland Trail Blazers for a 14-point victory. The Blazers made a nice second half run, but didn't have the horses necessary to overcome OKC, who has everything clicking right now
The Blazers were led in scoring by the resurgent JJ Hickson (21 points, 4 rebounds). LaMarcus Aldridge (20 points, 8 rebounds), Wesley Matthews (17 points, 4 steals), Nicolas Batum (13 points) and Jonny Flynn (10 points, 5 assists) also scored in double figures.
From the opening tip, OKC was more aggressive on offense, defense, and rebounding. On top of it, the Blazers couldn't hit the ocean. OKC's size was a major factor, as they outscored the Blazers 18-2 in the paint, and snagged any rebound they wanted. OKC missed a three at the buzzer to only lead by 14 at the end of the first. Rather, rinse and repeat in the second quarter, as the Blazers finally started hitting shots, but OKC easily stayed ahead. Jonny Flynn got some minutes, and hoisted a nice lob for a JJ Hickson dunk, but there was nothing to get too excited about. OKC led by 18 at the half, as the channel changed to Prime Time programming all over Portland.
The lead hit 20 early in the second half. Honestly, the final score has been academic since 6 minutes into the first, as Portland clearly is not at a level to compete with OKC tonight. But just as I typed that, the Blazers took offense and went on a run. OKC finally needed a timeout as LaMarcus led the Blazers to an 8 point deficit. A Matthews three made it a 5 point game, and the fans are on their feet. While Flynn did a nice job running the offense, he had trouble defending Westbrook, as OKC held their ground. Durant missed at the horn to keep the Blazers within 9 at the end of the third, to thunderous Rose Garden applause.
If this were a fairy tale, I'd have an amazing story about the fourth quarter Blazer comeback. But no such luck. Despite the effort from JJ Hickson, OKC slowly pulled away again in the fourth, as you'd expect from a contender. Soon, the lead was 17 again. There was no further comeback, as OKC easily held the Blazers at bay.
There is nothing to see in the box score, but stay tuned for Dave's recap and Ben's media row report later. The Blazers get a nice day off, then the exact opposite of OKC next, as New Orleans arrives Thursday. -- Tim