The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, 106-90, at the Rose Garden on Friday night, dropping Portland's record to 33-46.
I've tried my best to avoid doing this all year but there's no way around it this evening. Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant suffered a "probable" torn left Achilles, forcing me into other commitments, something I loathe on game nights. I'm half amazed that it took so long for a situation like this to happen this season and half disappointed to be coming up short. Either way, it is what it is, as they say. Of all the games to get time crunched on, this was a pretty good one, given Oklahoma City's dominant second-half performance. Dave's analysis and Timmay's recap are more than enough to pick up the slack.
Here's a condensed round-up of the post-game reaction, including some quotes, some game notes, and the full transcript from coach Terry Stotts.
Damian Lillard: 10 points (on three-for-14 shooting), eight assists, three rebounds in 37 minutes...
On the Thunder's defense on him: "I thought they did a good job in pick-and-roll coverage, they contested all my shots at the rim, they played physical, they played a good game."
On the Blazers' seven-point third-quarter: "We didn't score points in the third quarter, they got their hands on balls, got out in transition. Once they made some lay-ups, they got some confidence, started to make tough shots, and we didn't make shots. They were able to get a lead on us."
On the 10-game losing streak: "It's tough. I hate losing. Especially with the type of season we had. I don't want to go into the offseason on a  game losing streak or whatever. I want to win at least one game. It's frustrating to keep losing."
LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with 12 points (on six-for-14 shooting) and two rebounds in 28 minutes...
On trying to win one game before the end of the season: "Everybody wants to get a win, we definitely don't want to go out losing every game. That's our focus for these last games, too. Hopefully we can get one."
On the seven-point third quarter: "We came out flat, they came out more energetic. We kind of just stood around and watched guys play, they doubled Damian, doubled myself. We didn't really move the ball. I felt like they stayed active and got steals on us and took over the game."
On Russell Westbrook's game-high 33 points: "He just got on one of those rolls. You don't mind him getting to that mid-range shot but he just kept knocking them down."
Will Barton, who finished with a team-high 18 points (on eight-for-19 shooting) and seven rebounds in 39 minutes
On his poster dunk of Thabo Sefolosha: "It felt real good. Any time I can get a chance to get to that rim, my eyes light up. To get a dunk, I like to play that way, the athletic guys, get up and down, it felt good to throw one down."
Thunder coach Scott Brooks
On defending Damian Lillard: "We locked in on him. We know that he's a primary scorer for that team and he's really good. He just plays with a toughness and a calmness that you believe in as a teammate. We've done a good job of stopping the ball. We don't want a lot of penetration and we did a good job of keeping him out of the piaint. The shots that he was taking were contested."
Random Game Notes
- This game was announced as a sellout. A touch generous but not terrible.
- The theme was 1990s night, which made no sense given that the opponent was the Thunder. Anyway, the highlight was easily Jerome Kersey dancing in the middle of a group of Blazers Dancers to "Bust A Bucket." He received a partial standing ovation, which was well-deserved.
- Former Oregon Ducks Ed Dickson and LaMichael James were in attendance.
- A young, female fan had one of the sketchiest signs you will ever see displayed on the jumbotron: "Sorry, mom, I'd rather go home with LaMarcus."
- For the first time in months there was a proposal on the jumbotron. Love blossoms anew in Portland. Millie said yes!
- Thunder center Hasheem Thabeet made an obscene gesture in the direction of fans seated in the baseline seats after he was heckled a bit while sitting on the court. Video of the gesture is here. Thabeet denied it afterwards, telling Blazersedge: "I just fell. I wasn't talking to the crowd." I asked him a second time if he exchanged words with anyone in the crowd: "Not at all. I just told you that." The gesture should draw a fine from the NBA league office.
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman always does a nice job with post-game notes. Try those out here.
- Bruce Ely of The Oregonian has one of those sweet gigapan images from the game. Find yourself.
- I handed out year-end grades at SI.com on Friday. The Blazers got a C.
- Blazers guard Nolan Smith got absolutely destroyed by a Reggie Jackson block shot at the rim and he left the game soon afterwards to get an X-ray on his left knee. He suffered a strain but the X-ray was negative.
- It was a pretty resigned locker room scene. Reality has long since sunk in. There's not much more to say or more to ask at this point. Aldridge actually delayed his post-game comments so that he, Blazers staffers and a group of media members could stand around and watch the conclusion of the Lakers' defeat of the Golden State Warriors on a flat-screen television in the locker room. Everyone -- including Aldridge -- seemed to agree that the finish (with playoff implications and Bryant's injury) was more important than whatever he had to say about Portland's eighth double-digit loss during their streak of 10 straight losses)
- There's just one more home game left on Portland's schedule and it just happens to be Blazersedge Night. I can't wait and I can't think of a better way to end this season.
- Thanks to the Blazersedge Reader who came up after the game to say that he is "addicted" to the site. That's what we like to hear.
- The Blazers are now one game behind the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 11 spot in the 2013 draft order.
Terry Stotts' Post-Game Comments
The third quarter was obviously the difference in the game. I liked for the most part that the first half was the way we like to play. I thought the play at the end of the first half gave them some momentum going into halftime. Third quarter, our offense ground down, we stopped moving the ball, we didn't create shots for each other, we were loose with the turnovers, it's a bad combination. It was too big of a hole after that third quarter.
What happened with offense?
I'd have to watch the film, the ball stopped, whether we were setting screens [or not], the ball stopped, we're not a one-on-one team. They did a nice job on LaMarcus, fronting him, doubling him from the baseline. We weren't able to get much going there. They did a nice job with Damian, two guys there, protecting the rim when he did drive. The first five minutes of the second half, we had five or six shots where the ball just didn't move.
They're in the top-five defensively. With their athleticism on the perimeter and their rim protection, they didn't even have Perkins tonight. [Serge] Ibaka protects the rim, [Hasheem] Thabeet protects the rim, [Nick] Collison is a smart defender who can go in and take charges so they protect the paint great and they have athleticism on the wings.
Obviously he didn't score the way we've seen him. You've got to give Oklahoma City the credit on that. They made him a priority. They didn't let him have any clean looks, they really funneled him on his drives, committed two guys to him. When he did get to the rim there were two guys down there. It was a frustrating night probably offensively but I thought he continued to play. His defense was good. I thought Oklahoma City did a nice job defensively.
Anything Lillard can do to function more effectively against that type of defense?
When teams commit two guys to one player, it's up to the other guys on the court. Just like if they double-team LaMarcus on the block, his job is to get the ball out of double team and the other guys have to make shots. It's the responsibility of the other players to make themselves available and be ready to understand the spacing that's available to them and they have to become decision-makers and play-makers. If teams commit to taking one guy out of the game, that's opportunities for other guys.
Is this game a look at the leap this team will need to make to get to the next level?
I know we have an appreciation for how good Oklahoma City is. We had that understanding before the game. I don't know if it tells us any more than we knew last time we played them. They're an elite team and they play at a high level every night.
Losing streak wearing on you?
It's one game at a time. It's been a long time. We've got a lot going on. We've played some good teams, we've played well in spots. We'd like to get some wins, there's no question. I don't know if it's wearing me or us but you've got to get up for the next game. After you lose a game, you're down, you've got to pick yourself up and win the next one.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter